Trade unions are furious that six leading charities have backed plans to close dozens of factories which provide jobs for disabled people, on the eve of tomorrow’s launch of a new trade union campaign to save the factories.
Remploy, which has 5,000 disabled staff at 83 plants in the UK, says it has to cut costs.
The unions are warning that the government is refusing to increase its funding and Remploy plans to axe half of the factories, putting 2,500 jobs under threat.
The six charities, including Mencap and MIND, support the closures, saying that disabled people should be given jobs in mainstream industries instead.
GMB national secretary Phil Davies, secretary of the Remploy trade unions consortium, insisted jobs elsewhere were hard to find and often of the lowest quality.
He told News Line yesterday: ‘We are very angry that the charities have made a statement at a very critical time in negotiations, without even discussing these issues with the workers at Remploy or their representatives.
‘The trade unions have been very supportive of these charities in the past, and we feel that they have misled the public in what they said in their letter to the Guardian.’
Davies added: ‘It is clear that there is now a co-ordinated push by the Remploy management, backed by the politicians, to shut up to 30 Remploy factories.
‘The Remploy management has lined up six members of a Remploy-funded task group to support factory closures. Remploy workers are asking if these six people from different disability organisations are representative of the people they have been set up to help or is this just a payroll vote.’
He warned: ‘A clash now seems inevitable. The trade unions are warning that the outcome will be a national strike across all 83 Remploy factories.’
Remploy Trade Union Consortium National Convenor Les Woodward, GMB, alleged: ‘These charities all have a vested interest in seeing Remploy close.
‘They are all part of what can only be described as a cartel within the disabilithy lobby. That cartel is called the Remploy Task Force.
‘It’s fairly obvious that they see the money that goes into supporting Remploy factories could be better used supporting them.
‘The trade unions believe that disabled people should have a choice over where they are employed just as able bodied people have a choice over where they are employed.
‘Now if you shut down Remploy factories and you catapult people into what’s called mainstream employment then you will be taking away their choice of where they are employed.’
He further alleged: ‘The premise of this task force is all based on a politically correct philosophy but underlying it is a very cynical economic argument that the £110 million per year that Remploy receives would be better spent elsewhere – specifically to them.
‘You can read about it on www.remploytaskforce.org. uk.
‘Four of the six charities that signed the letter to the Guardian on Saturday are members of this taskforce.’
Jo Williams, chief executive of Mencap, said: ‘When the factories were started 60 years ago they were making an important contribution. Those days have gone really.
‘We’re looking forward to seeing people with disabilities fully integrated into society.
‘Of course, for some people this will be difficult and quite frightening, I imagine, but they’re not going to be abandoned.’