Jun 082012
 

The closure of the Remploy factories has ignited a wealth of media attention and strong feeling as well as differences of opinion between disabled people, and Disabled Peoples’ Organisations (DPOs) on the position of disabled Remploy factory workers. The now infamous Sayce report called for closure of the factories in the ironically titled: ‘Getting in, staying in and getting on: disability employment support fit for the future’. This was followed by a consultation exercise in July 2011 to which DPAC responded outlining the impact of the closure of the factories and urging that they remain open.

Since then, DPAC, DPOs, Unions, disabled workers, disabled and non-disabled people have been active on the proposed closures in a number of ways which have been publicised on the DPAC site. DPAC have invited Liz Sayce to comment, but she has not responded to our request.

Most recently the Sayce report has been accused of doing the Governments ‘dirty work’, as elitist and a part of the cuts agenda at the TUC Disabled Peoples’ conference. 

There was overwhelming support at the annual TUC Disabled Workers’ Conference for the campaign to fight the planned closure of the Remploy factories.

The government announced in March that 36 of the 54 remaining Remploy factories across the UK would close by the end of 2012, with the loss of more than 1,500 disabled people’s jobs, while there would be further consultation over the future of the other 18 factories.

The announcement was part of the government’s response to a consultation on last year’s review of employment support by Liz Sayce, chief executive of Disability Rights UK (DR UK).

Sayce called in her report for funds currently used to subsidise the factories to be ploughed into more personalised forms of employment support for disabled people, including the Access to Work (AtW) scheme.

But Mandy Hudson, from the National Union of Teachers, told the conference that the Sayce report had “gone about doing the government’s dirty work”.

And she criticised “the completely cavalier way that Liz Sayce’s report sets adrift a whole set of disabled workers”.

The disabled peer Lord [Colin] Low also criticised Sayce’s report, and said its “highly individualised approach… seems to smack of elitism”.

Read more of the article by John Pring including the Remploy protest outside the offices of DR UK by Remploy workers and UKUncut here  

 Opening up the debate

Since the government announced the closures, some DPOs have backed its plans, arguing that the move was one towards the inclusion of disabled people.

But Tracey Lazard, chief executive of Inclusion London, said:

This is a cut. It isn’t about inclusion. We shouldn’t let the government justify this in the name of inclusion.

She accepted that the disability movement has been divided on whether to support the closures, but she said:

What we need is a dialogue. This is us putting an alternative view forward which hopefully will get a debate going. That’s what we need. Read more

Letter to the Guardian

The publication of a letter against Remploy closures was published in both on-online and print versions of the Guardian on May 10. The letter was composed by Inclusion London, DPAC and unions. Many DPOs and disabled people signed in support of the Remploy workers. The letter was shortened and some names and DPOs were reduced due to space restrictions by the Guardian. This link  will take you to the letter with a link to the original letter’s wording. DPAC will be updating the names and DPOs that were left off the printed and online versions shortly. We asked Liz Sayce to comment, but she did not respond.

However, a response article to the letter was issued by DPO Breakthrough UK claiming that while they agreed with many aspects of our letter they could not join other DPOs in signing it and wanted to open up debate on the Remploy issue.

We agree with opening the debate, and provide a link to the thoughtful piece by disabled activist and comedian Laurence Clark published in the Independent: Remploy Closures: right in theory but where does it leave disabled employees?

Sean McGovern a former Remploy factory worker responded directly to the Breakthrough article

and Les Woodward a GMB convener and worker at the Swansea Remploy factory said of the Breakthrough article:

This article, unfortunately is typical of the “Politically Correct” brigades attitude to Supported Employment and the language they use to try and justify their positions…

Another unfortunate slant of this article is that it totally fails to take into account the effect on the workers themselves or indeed other disabled workers who given the present economic climate would give their eye teeth for a job any job. They would sell their soul for a job in Remploy that can provide skilled work, training and other support that employment in Remploy offers.

 I have said it many times and I will say it a lot more. No-one ever forced a gun to my head to work in Remploy, over the 28 years I have been employed by the Company, I have been free to leave at any time I wanted, just like any other worker in any other workplace.

 Of course whether or not I exercise that choice to leave is dependant not least on economic circumstances that I have found myself in and whether or not the alternative employment was viable in terms of remuneration or terms and conditions. No employment opportunities that can match those that I am on in Remploy have presented themselves as yet.

 No one would disagree with the aspirations of a fully inclusive society, and I for one would absolutely love to see the day when Remploy really was old fashioned and there would be no need for Remploy because we would have a fully inclusive society that caters for everyone. Unfortunately we live in a rather different world which is going further and further away from inclusion and equality of opportunity over the last 18 months or so rather than moving more towards inclusion and equal opportunity. The reason for this is that we are now governed by the rich for the rich and of the rich, while we get poorer and poorer.

 The ultimate shame in all this is that organisations such as the one who authored this article are wittingly or unwittingly collaborating with this Government in implementing cuts in the living standards of some of the very people they purport to support.

 Thanks a million to everyone that signed the letter, we really appreciate it and appreciate the support that you give us.

 Les

 We will provide more responses soon….

Previous pieces from DPAC and others

DPAC has always been transparent in its connections, actions and thoughts on the Remploy closures, which have been published on the DPAC web site, some of which we list here. We also include pieces by other groups

Remploy Closures: no segregated employment translates to unemployment for up to 2000 workers

DPAC Remploy Workers meeting London March 20th

Right to Work Pledges Support for Remploy workers

London meeting unites resistance to Remploy Closures

Furious workers hit out at Boss whose report led to Remploy factories getting the Axe

Demo for Remploy workers April 20th

Independent: Betrayed Disabled Workers protest against Remploy Closures

Fight the Remploy Closures

Remploy Public Meeting Thursday 26th April

Government accused of Hijacking Disability Equality Language to Justify Remploy Closures

The closure of Remploy factories is about cuts and cannot be justified by a misguided language of inclusion in a time when disabled people are facing the worse attacks on their inclusion, human rights and equality in UK history. Disabled people and DPOs need to support the Remploy workers rather than engaging in forms of ideological bullying that refuse to take into account the impacts on disabled peoples’ lives. Nor should they be so arrogant as to suggest that these workers shouldn’t have choice in where they chose to work. Less than 5% of Remploy workers in the last set of closures found alternative jobs, with some committing suicide-is this really something that we want to support for up to 2000 more disabled people under a flimsy Tory rhetoric of inclusion?