Apr 222012
 

At a meeting called by DPAC on 19th April 2012 to discuss the issues for the disabled people’s movement in opposing the closure of Remploy factories, Tracey Lazard, Chief Executive of Inclusion London, London’s leading Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisation, called on disabled people to unite in opposing the government’s cynical decision to snatch employment from thousands of disabled workers.

Over 30 disabled people and allies attended the meeting held at the University of London Union to build support from the disability people’s community for the national Remploy demonstration which took place on 20th April and the meeting called by Unite for 26th April. The meeting represented the first time the disabled people’s movement has openly discussed the complex and controversial issues which the Remploy dispute touches on and which have led to the stigma which still largely surrounds support for the Remploy workers from within the movement. However, whilst some disabled people are publically quoted as celebrating the closures as a victory for disability equality, DPAC has criticised the closures and the lack of any form of worker/user- led alternative which was proposed in the Sayce report.

Lazard explained Inclusion London’s position in opposing the factory closures and how this is in no way an endorsement of segregated employment. At a time of recession when non-disabled people cannot find jobs and when benefit cuts are pushing genuine disabled claimants off benefits and into poverty, it is irresponsible to remove meaningful employment from thousands of disabled people. The Sayce Report recommended investing money saved from the factory closures in Access to Work, the government programme that funds support for disabled people in mainstream employment, but with continuing cuts and restrictions to Access to Work, it is evident that the closures have nothing to do with building an inclusive society and are nothing more than yet another a cynical attempt to save money by targeting the most disadvantaged members of the community. Rob Murthwaite, DPAC national steering committee, spoke out about the need to nail the lie that this dispute is about disabled people’s equality.

There was debate around the need for segregated workplaces and also about the best way to effectively support the Remploy workers in their dispute. There was unanimous agreement that the Remploy workers have been mismanaged by non-disabled people with senior managers taking home 1.8 million in bonuses in 2011 while the factory floor were under a pay restraint. There was a strong feeling that government should have invested in reforming the factories according to user led models so that the expertise of the workers could be utilised in establishing viable, sustainable enterprises. Questions were raised about figures given out by the government purportedly showing the unsustainability of the factories. There was also consensus that on the core disabled people’s principle of nothing about us without us, the movement needs to listen and respect the voices of the workers. Those voices say no to factory closures so we need to respect that and support the workers in their self-determined struggle.

John McDonnell MP spoke about the grim prospects for the thousands of disabled Remploy workers set to lose their jobs. In areas with Remploy factories the ratio of people chasing each job is 30-40: 1 which is far higher than average. After losing their income from employment the workers will face serious difficulty in obtaining enough income to survive from welfare benefits as the system is ever tightened and the government moves ahead with proposals to replace DLA with PIP and in so doing remove 20% of claimants. He spoke about work he is involved in joint with PCS to document cases where coroners have directly linked deaths to the loss of benefits.

The meeting agreed actions in support for the Remploy workers to include a letter from DPAC and Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations to the press opposing the factory closures, support for the meeting called by Unite on 26th April and participation in the demonstration on 20th April.

 

SAVE REMPLOY – PUBLIC MEETING THURSDAY 26TH APRIL 6.30 – 8.30 PM AT FARADAY HOUSE 48-51 Old Gloucester Street London , WC1N 3AE (Opposite Unite’s Holborn Office car park)

 

Tracey Lazard’s presentation:Remploy presentation – IL

ellen

  2 Responses to “Government accused of hijacking disability equality language to justify Remploy closures”

  1. Over the past few years I have been thinking despite the Equality and Disability Discrimination Act, why disabled people are less likely to be employed than they once were before anti-discrimination legislation. Once upon time there were all sorts of workers doing a whole range of jobs, ranging from factory to management? In those days, recruitment processes was less scientific. Whilst a non-scientific approach to staff recruitment lead to criticism of favouritism and nepotism, nevertheless it did benefit disabled applicants where employers may have been more open to consider their abilities within rather than independently from their organisation’s context. However, times have changed, and I believe that it’s becoming increasing more difficult for disabled people to get any kind of employment because discrimination and prejudice is much more cohort these days.

    Many jobs application process now requires applicants to submit themselves to standardised tests that are ‘objective’ in nature whereby the computer will recommend whether you are the right or wrong person for the job. All these scientific methods of selecting the ideal worker using aptitude and personality tests, group work and qualifications based on the notion they are objective, free from bias and prejudice is absolute rubbish. All these recruitment tests have been designed in selecting out the ideal workers, based on non-disabled peoples’ averages and norms. This is based on the assumption that workers have particular physical, biological and social dispositions. So, disabled people will always be disadvantaged because they will be measured and graded against intellectual, physical and social standards set by non-disabled people, from a middle class upbringing. These disablist standards are embedded in all recruitment tests, whether they are of an IQ nature or task-related. Within group tasks assessment will be based on whether the applicants have the right social skills (i.e. eye contact, change tone of voice etc.) and dress sense with the right size of wallet! I have lost track on the number of times I have seen advice given out – cheap ‘smart’ clothes will not do for an interview / assessment centre. Also the speed that applicants are expected to perform the tasks or tests will be set at what is reasonably expected by non-disabled instead of disabled applicants. Many of these recruitment tests that are supposed to be objective are designed to screen out atypical workers, with atypical experiences such as us, disabled people.
    Whilst DPAC must challenge A2W cuts, I think there is another big issue we must address and that is the whole recruitment process that seems to disadvantage disabled applicants wanting work of any sort these days. If we do not challenge the ‘scientific’ and ‘rationalisation’ of employment recruitment processes then disabled people will increase face prejudice and discrimination in gaining and maintain employment.

    Simone Aspis

  2. Whilst I have never celebrated the closure of Remploy Factories I have welcomed it as a future direction for disabled people who wish to be properly included in the workplace.I think this will be necessary and appropriate but can also accept that given the economic climate that these closures are far from timely.

    However, I am more interested in the idea that the government, like charities, is stealing our clothes. Welfare Reform itself can under its present guise be seen as a social model solution. Under the old system we constantly raised issues about the complexities of form filling, about the fact that the forms never looked at what we can do – only on what we could not do – which was seen as a sure way to keep us out of employment.

    However, the work test can also be seen in medical model terms insofar as it uses tests to determine individualistic outcomes.

    In some ways the forms, the tests are insignificant here. You can have it this way or that way. What matters are the outcomes. These are designed to penalise and impoverish disabled people so even if the government steals the language, we know the tests are really seen as no more and no less than an economic adjustment, so whilst they can blab and blubber about a social model solution what they cannot claim is a social model outcome.

    This is deeply worrying and serves to teach us once again that whilst a government can say one thing it is only to hide what they are really doing.

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