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BREAKING: Remploy workers occupy company head office over closures dispute

Surprise action comes amid increasing anger at refusal by Coalition ministers to compromise on closure timetable. Many Remploy staff fear they will never be able to work again if they are made redundant from specialist agency for workers with disabilities.

by  – 23rd August 2012, 11.35 BST

Remploy workers and union reps have occupied the company’s head office in Leicester, demanding that the government withdraws its threat to close the agency’s remaining factories.

The group of eight workers, including members of the joint union consortium, had requested a meeting with one of the company’s directors to discuss concerns over the closure timetable.

They say the earliest date they had been offered was in October – by which time it is feared more factories will have closed.

GMB national secretary Phil Davies said: “Today, ex Remploy employees who were casually sacked last week, are occupying Remploy’s head office, demanding to see a director to try to get answers to questions that have so far remained unanswered.

“This is the start of a fresh initiative by the trade unions who have called a strike at Chesterfield and Springburn, two of the factories that are due to be sold off.

“We are asking the public to support our members who are trying to find out who they will be working for as no information about the sale of these two factories has been given to the employees or the trade unions.”

The occupation is the latest stage of a high-stakes battle by workers at the specialist agency for people with disabilities to try to keep Remploy’s remaining 30 factories open.

The Department of Work and Pensions [DWP] intends to close a total of 27 factories by the end of this year.

Nine other sites could be sold to new owners.

Remploy workers – many of whom are middle-aged and have complex care needs – fear they will never be able to find another job and say the government’s current redundancy package is only a fraction of what was offered to colleagues who took voluntary redundancy as recently as two years ago.

The occupation comes as dozens of staff at one of the agency’s largest factories – in Chesterfield – and another in Glasgow preparing a four-day strike, due to begin next month.

Senior Remploy managers are believed to be finalising plans to sell both the Derbyshire and Springburn factories to new owners. However, unions say the DWP is not carrying over full redundancy and pension rights for workers made redundant more than six months after any takeover.

More than 20 of Remploy’s 54 factories across the UK were closed last week.

Coalition ministers say the DWP’s annual £320m budget for disabled employment services could be spent more effectively if Remploy workers find jobs with ‘mainstream’ employers.

However, unions say more than 85% of Remploy workers made redundant during previous job cuts are still unemployed, more than two years later.

It has also estimated that the closure programme could cost the taxpayer and additional £50m a year.

Remploy officials say they are contacting senior managers to try to arrange a meeting with the union delegation.

We will file updates when we have further information.

Linda

 Posted by at 13:35

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