The GMB and Unite, the unions for Remploy workers, held a demonstration in Norwich town centre on Saturday against the government’s plan to shut 54 disabled workers’ factories.
The demonstration will be followed by a public meeting in London on Thursday and a national demonstration also in London, on Friday.
At the Norwich demonstration, Glenn Holdom, regional organiser of the GMB, told News Line: ‘It’s part of our fight to get the government to overturn their decision to close 54 factories.
‘This is a massive injustice. It will cost more in benefits than to sustain these 2,100 people in sheltered employment.
‘If our campaign is unsuccessful it is estimated it will cost beyond £1bn to close all 54 factories.
‘This same amount would keep all 54 factories open for the next 15 years.
‘It is therefore ideologically and financially unsound.
‘There’s going to be a lot of actions to support this campaign.
‘When will this government wake up to the strength of feeling that the general public have towards the cuts that are being imposed on members of society?
‘They are disgusting and totally unjust.
‘All over, there are problems with factory closures, dilution of terms and conditions.
‘It’s horrendous the volumes of people being affected by these savage cuts, in East Anglia alone.’
The London public meeting ‘To fight the Remploy Closures’ is on Thursday 19 April, at 7.30pm at ULU, Malet Street, London WC1
Speakers include: John McDonnell MP, Unite Assistant General Secretary Gail Cartmail, GMB National Convenor of Remploy, Les Woodward, and Rob Murthwaite from Disabled People Against Cuts.
The march on Friday, 20th April is assembling at 12.30pm outside the Department of Work and Pensions, Tothill Street, London, SW1.
It is going to the Old Palace Yard, Westminster, (opposite Parliament) for a rally with speakers.
On 7th March, the House of Commons announced the decision to close 36 of the 54 remaining Remploy sites with compulsory redundancy for 1,752 people of whom 1,518 are disabled.
The statement envisages the complete closure of all 54 factories in due course.
A video posted by disabled Remploy worker Steve Collins on YouTube and Facebook brought home the tragic reality of the government’s decision.
Collins has a learning disability, muscular problems and issues with speech and sight, and has worked for Remploy in the Stoke-on-Trent factory for 19 years.
With his voice cracking with emotion, he warns: ‘If my factory shuts, that is the end for me.
‘With all the unemployed people out there who is going to give me a job? We’ll all be on the dole for ever.
‘My job gives me a few quid and means I don’t have to claim benefits. I want to pay my way.’
He adds: ‘I’ve worked in mainstream employment before. I used to get picked on.
‘I know they’ll tell me things have changed since then but we don’t live in a perfect world.’
GMB national officer Phil Davies said the video ‘puts the prime minister to shame’, adding: ‘This heartfelt message may lack the polish of one of Cameron’s speeches but the tears are real.’