By Socialist Party Scotland reporters. 19th July 2012
Remploy workers were out in impressive numbers at picket lines across Scotland today as part of UK-wide action against plans by the Con-Dem’s to shut 27 factories by the end of the year and make 1700 workers redundant. Socialist Party Scotland members were out giving support in Dundee, Glasgow and Lanarkshire this morning. For more reports from England and Wales see www.socialistparty.org.uk
All 25 of the GMB members at the Dundee factory were on strike. Equally significant was the fact that. 15 of them came to the picket line. GMB flags and placards covered the factory entrances and strikers wore their defend Remploy T-shirts. “Maria Miller Factory Killer” showed the anger of the workers towards the so-called Tory disability minister responsible for the announcements.”
The Dundee Remploy produces nuclear and chemical and biological protection suits for the MoD and the Home Office
Derek Milligan the GMB shop steward explained the anger among the Remploy workers. “We’ve had a great picket today and tremendous support for our fight. The closures planned are a disgrace. Remploy has been a lifeline for disabled workers for decades and plays a vital role in providing employment. At one time we had over 200 workers here, now its down to 40. With millions unemployed what are the prospects of finding employment if these factories close ?”
“The possibility of a private company taking over the factory will be a green light to attack the terms and working conditions of the staff.
Derek and fellow GMB activist Linda Rose recently stood as candidates for the Scottish Anti-Cuts Coalition in May during the Scottish council elections helping to highlight the battle to defend jobs at Remploy as part of the campaign against public sector cuts.
There was a good turn-out on the picket line in Springburn. Workers were keen to give a comprehensive breakdown of the problem caused by Government Minister, Maria Miller, "factory killer" and told of two possible private buy-outs which will both involve redundancies and severe cuts in staff.
Springburn took action last week as well as they were informed they were one of nine factories that the Con-Dem’s were lookingto sell to a private company. In response workers last Tuesday held a union meeting and then occupied the canteen for several hours.
Phil Brannan, GMB union convener for Remploy, said “Remploy has refused to reveal the name of the company interested in taking us over. This means we can't carry out any investigations into the potential bidder or represent our members effectively because we don't know the background. It also means we've now got yet more weeks of worry until we find out what's going to happen. I've been a union rep at the site for 32 years and we've never taken any sort of unofficial action before."
There was a good picket line in place at Wishaw. The factory here used to assemble cookers, freezers & fridges but lost this work as products were sold onto outlets cheaply and then resold on for big profits. 22 workers now package gift book-sets for Harper Collins, but this work is under threat and may soon be brought back in-house. 21 GMB members and 1 Unite member were involved at Wishaw.
Linda Hills has worked for nearlt 30 years "Everyone's really upset. It's going to be hard for us all. We'll need to look for other jobs but there are 2.7 million people unemployed so what chance have we got? We'll probably have to go on to benefits and we don't want to do that."
The tremendous response to today’s action show’s that the workers at Remploy will defend their jobs against the Tory onslaught. As the article below shows, this attack on disabled workers will be fought all the way, and it’s a fight that needs to be won
Support the Remploy fight
By Rob Williams
For months the Con-Dem government have stated their intention to close 36 out of 54 Remploy factories across the UK. Remploy workers had already voted overwhelmingly to take strike action on 19 and 26 July to save these plants and the related jobs. Now this has added urgency because on 10 July the government announced the closure of the first 27 plants, possibly by Christmas.
This is a further attack on disabled people who want to have a choice of what form their working lives take, whether it's supported employment or mainstream employment.
Remploy factories play a vital role in helping disabled people have a sustainable, independent working life as opposed to being left to rot on the unemployment scrapheap, reliant on ever diminishing benefits.
The plants were originally developed to ensure wounded returning soldiers from World War Two had a job. It stands alongside the NHS as an historical legacy won through the Labour government elected in 1945.
This was as a result of the pressure of working people to avoid the miserable fate that faced those who survived World War One, who were promised 'a land fit for heroes'. Now these disabled workers, along with the rest of the working-class are targeted to pay for a crisis caused by the greedy and corrupt bankers and the tax-avoiding rich - all represented by this cabinet of millionaires.
It's a scandal that 2,000 disabled people were made redundant in 2008 when the New Labour government closed 29 Remploy factories. The majority of these are now living a life in poverty on benefits. This is the future facing Remploy workers today if the Con-Dem government close these factories.
Contrary to the view of the Sayce report for the Department for Work and Pensions and Tory minister Iain Duncan Smith, Remploy factories are not ghettoes of out-dated employment. They are manufacturing facilities that employ skilled workers who produce high quality products. Unfortunately the skill and loyalty of these workers has not been matched by senior managers who have displayed a dismal record of mismanagement in recent years.
Remploy senior management received £2 million in fat cat bonuses while at the same time failing to bring work into the factories!
The Socialist Party and the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) fully support the Remploy workers in their fight to keep their factories open through these strikes and whatever action these workers deem necessary, up to and including factory occupations. We urge all trade unionists and the general public to join us in the campaign to defend Remploy workers now!