Worksop Remploy workers’ fight to save job

Workers at Remploy striking against proposed closure of factories across the UK, pictured is employee Andrew Smith with some of the products he makes (w120726-1c)
Workers at Remploy striking against proposed closure of factories across the UK, pictured is employee Andrew Smith with some of the products he makes (w120726-1c)

DISABLED Remploy workers held a 24-hour strike on Thursday to protest against the proposed closure of the Worksop factory.

They gathered outside the Valley Road factory which could close at the end of August - with a potential loss of 40 jobs.

Workers at Remploy striking against proposed closure of factories across the UK, pictured is employee Andrew Smith with some of the products he makes (w120726-1b)

Workers at Remploy striking against proposed closure of factories across the UK, pictured is employee Andrew Smith with some of the products he makes (w120726-1b)

Richard Finch has worked at Remploy for 11 years since suffering two major heart attacks and said he was disgusted at the government’s proposals to close or sell off 54 factories across the country.

“It’s an absolute disgrace what they are doing. This really breaks my heart - this place has been an absolute god-send to me,” he said.

“The disabled people who work here really have pride in what they do and they don’t want to lose their jobs.”

“The people in London making these decisions don’t care about us. When our workers come through that do here, everybody is equal.”

Workers at Remploy striking against proposed closure of factories across the UK, pictured at the Worksop factory are from left Andrew Mitchell, Richard Finch and Andrew Smith (w120726-1a)

Workers at Remploy striking against proposed closure of factories across the UK, pictured at the Worksop factory are from left Andrew Mitchell, Richard Finch and Andrew Smith (w120726-1a)

“Where are disabled workers going to find another job elsewhere. It really does break my heart.”

The Remploy factory in Worksop opened in 1948 and currently employs 12 staff and 18 contracted workers who produce a range of quality products for organisations across the country - from schools and nurseries to hospitals.

Worksop site foreman Andrew Mitchell said the proposed factory closure threw up worrying prospects for its workers.

“Where are disabled people going to go if they can’t find employment elsewhere?” he said.

“Only two per cent of workers from the Mansfield Remploy factory found jobs when it closed, and many of them came here. Where are they going to go now?”

He added that working at Remploy is about much more than just having a paid job.

“It’s a really nice place for them to be here. They get interaction with others and really feel as though they have achieved something positive.”

MP John Mann said the government should reverse any closure plans with immediate effect.

“The Remploy factory in Worksop is a viable concern and requires no subsidy. This is a government attempt to sack the workers and sell off the site for housing,” he said.

“These workers are highly skilled, well established and selling products especially to Tesco and to nursery schools across England.”

“This is government at its very worst in forcing these people into unemployment.”

Last Thursday’s day of action was the second strike held by Remploy workers across the country.

Phil Davies, GMB National Secretary, said the government has failed to offer any help to the threatened workers.

“When the first wave of factory closures happen by the end of the year, we will see about 1,700 disabled workers thrown onto the dole queue, at a time when those out of work for more than two years is at its worst rate since 1997.”

Minister for Disabled People Maria Miller said the Remploy board was proposing to close the sites by the end of the year because they were unlikely to achieve independent financial viability.

She said the £320 million budget for disability employment has been protected, adding that the money will be spent more effectively.

In a written ministerial statement responding to a Government-commissioned review into disability employment, Ms Miller said savings from policy changes being announced will be used on “proven employment programmes” to benefit ‘many more’ disabled people.

The minister said she had assessed ‘very carefully’ the needs of Remploy workers, as well as the 6.9 million disabled people of working age who could benefit from greater specialist employment support.