Remploy strikes need solidarity

Submitted by Matthew on 26 October, 2012 - 9:20

For the fourth time this year, pickets were out in force at the Remploy factory in Springburn, Glasgow on Monday 22 October as workers there kept up their fight in defence of jobs and terms and conditions of employment.

The only person crossing the picket line was one of the £300-a-day consultants brought in by the company to “facilitate” the rundown and possible closure of the factory.

The 24-hour strike, which also involved the five other Remploy factories in Scotland, was timed to coincide with a meeting of the Remploy Task Force in the Scottish Parliament.

Following a wave of closures of Remploy factories under the last Labour government, recent months have seen another round of closures, based on the argument that Remploy “ghettoises” disabled workers, who should instead be integrated into “mainstream” employment.

But as the statistics from the pre-2010 closures confirm, people with disabilities who lose their jobs with Remploy do not end up integrated into the “mainstream” labour force. They end up on the dole. And they remain on the dole.

Some Remploy factories, including the company’s Springburn site, have been the target of possible buyouts. But the price of any such buyout is unacceptably high for the workers involved.

Workers at the Springburn site fear that the potential new owners plan to cut the number of staff from 47 to 15, and also attack terms and conditions such as sick pay and holiday pay. Slashing the workforce could even be the prelude to complete closure and transferring the work to a site in England.

According to a statement issued by Remploy last month, the “preferred bidder” for its Springburn and Chesterfield sites is a company called RLink.

RLink has already announced that if it takes over the Chesterfield site it will cut the workforce from 70 to 40, cut terms and conditions, derecognise the union and replace it with a “works council”.

The transfer of ownership of the Springburn and Chesterfield sites from Remploy to RLink, if it goes ahead, is due to be completed by the end of October. But RLink has yet to even meet with representatives of the Springburn workforce.

Springburn workers want guarantees for their jobs and terms and conditions, whoever runs their factory. Remploy workers from the other Scottish factories, which have not been the offer of potential buyouts and where 200 jobs are at risk, are demanding government intervention to save their jobs.

Unfortunately, one sour note to the events of the strike day was the lack of support for the Remploy picket lines from the wider labour movement.

Although Remploy GMB members had been in the lead of the anti-austerity demonstration in Glasgow just two days earlier, there was no turnout last Monday to demonstrate solidarity on the picket line.

This certainly does not devalue the strike action by the GMB members. But it does raise a question about the value of all those wordy speeches in Glasgow Green on Saturday.

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