Jul 182012
 

The dangers of throwing several thousand people from paid work into unemployment should be obvious to anyone. The fact that a majority, although not all, of the Remploy workers are disabled people should signal a further problem: disabled people who want to work, are more likely to be unemployed than non-disabled people in all official statistics since records began. For example in 2011 the employment rate was 48.8% for disabled people compared to 77.5% for non-disabled people .

It is dangerous, misguided and completely ludicrous to claim that all disability organisations and the disability movement have decided that a new perverse way of supporting disabled people is to make them unemployed and subject to the ravages that disabled people must endure under this government, as the Sayce report suggests. For those of us that have spent years arguing for an equality agenda for disabled people the arguments put forward in the Sayce report are dangerous, misguided and wrong.

 

1. Remploy factories due for closure are “unviable” and too costly to run.

Remploy is no more unviable than the Royal Bank of Scotland, yet the Government found billions to bail out bankers. Remploy was set up before the end of the Second World War to provide employment and employment placement services for disabled people.

Labour MP Geraint Davies exposed the mismanagement of Remploy in Parliament recently when speaking as part of the Opposition Day Debate on disability welfare and support on 20th June :

 “When I started becoming actively involved with my local Remploy factory about a year ago, the orders it was receiving were not high enough. I went round to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, the local health service, the local university, and so on, and now the factory is working flat out, getting more and more orders. That just shows that if the central command in Remploy were more effective, the factories could be successful and could work.”

 If the factories are not financially sustainable, then why have there been 65 bids to save 31 Remploy sites (all but 9 were rejected)?

2.  Remploy workers don’t do “proper” jobs.

 This is a myth peddled by the Work and Pensions minister Iain Duncan Smith, who said that Remploy workers were “not doing any work… just making cups of coffee”.

 This sneering insult is far from the truth.

 Workers at Remploy are involved in a range of jobs from producing medical equipment to CCTV operators, and from assembly for car companies  to book-binding.

 

3. Each Remploy place costs some £25,000 per year.

This was the figure used in the Sayce report which recommended the closure of the factories.

The report does not explain that that this figure was calculated on the basis of how much it costs to run the entire factory network including layers of unnecessary of overpaid management, their bonuses and company cars, and under-performing central posts filled largely by non-disabled workers at a time when managers were running the factories into the ground and not using resources to capacity.

Mark Holloway a worker at the Barking factory in east London said, “They say it costs £25,000 per disabled person to keep the jobs, but over 400 senior managers are on salaries of £40,000 to £60,000”. 

For 2010-2011, as recently 4 months before the beginning of this closures process, Remploy management received 1.8 million in bonuses at a time when the factory floor was on a pay restraint.

The cost of running the factory network was calculated without taking into account income earned from provision of training placements, which although delivered through the factory network was used to generate income instead into Remploy Employment Services.

Trade Unions representing the workers estimate that when the profit from sales is considered and taken into account the cost per disabled worker to the State could be as low as £7,000. When you also take into account the fact that tax and insurance is being paid in and benefits are not being paid out this figure could be substantially lower.

The cost of per worker needs to be compared against the £18,880 per year cost to the tax payer for those on long term benefits. There is also a hidden cost to the NHS. It is commonly accepted that once a disabled person stops work their health deteriorates and more medical intervention is needed. Add this to the increase costs of the £18,880 and the actual final cost could be £30,000 to £40,000 per year in increased costs. If we add in the cost of the 2008 redundancy of £40+ million, plus the impact on family members having to give up or reduce work in order to support disabled relatives now at home during the day and you can soon see it will take years, if ever to recover the costs.

 

4. Money spent on Remploy factory placements could support thousands more disabled people through Access to Work.

Access to Work can only support disabled people once they are in jobs, it doesn’t help people find jobs.

Access to Work has a lower success rate than the Remploy factories with supporting disabled people from impairment groups that are under-represented in the workplace. In 2010-2011 people with mental health support needs made up just 1.4% of disabled customers helped by Access to Work compared to 5% of Remploy employees. When you look at learning difficulties, Access to Work provided support to just 5% compared to 17.2% working in Remploy.

Access to Work provides support to different groups of disabled people than are employed by Remploy.

Increasing its budget alone will not enable Access to Work to more successfully reach these under-represented groups: government policy is to reduce resources invested in individual disabled people through Access to Work support. Instead of stretching the budget to cover more disabled people this effectively stops the programme from being any use to many disabled people. Jobcentre Plus disability equality advisors have told us they have stopped referring disabled job-seekers to Access to Work because the growing restrictions on what the programme will cover make it pointless.

 

5. It’s segregated employment.

This is one simplistic argument popularised by the Sayce report, however the Remploy factories do not employ disabled people exclusively. In 2008, 29 factory sites geographically based from Scotland to Cornwall closed with over 2,500 Remploy employees becoming unemployed. Of these, 1,700 employees were disabled. The 2012 closures will affect around 80% of employees who are disabled.

 

6. The closure of factories will lead to greater inclusion for disabled people.

The inclusion of disabled people in society is at greater risk under this Condem government than it has been for decades. Inclusive education is fundamental for achieving inclusive communities, yet Condem education policy (name it/link it) is to bring back segregated education through what they call ‘removing the bias of inclusion’ and the promotion of Academies  which notoriously  discriminate against disabled pupils. For disabled adults the closure of the independent living fund signals a return to institutional care as local authorities such as Worcester seek to cap social care support forcing disabled people with higher levels of support need to go into care and denying them the right to live in the community.

Against attacks on disabled people’s right to inclusion on this magnitude pushing a few thousand workers into joblessness will achieve nothing.

On the other hand through employment Remploy workers have access to life chances that would be denied to them through joblessness. Remploy employee Tony Collins, a middle distance runner with the Great Britain Learning Disabled Athletics Squad who uses his salary to travel the world attending international athletics events,  will not only lose his job when the factory where he works closes but his whole life will change for the worse.

 

7. The workers will be supported when the factories close.

During 2007 and the early part of 2008 the company gave promises of support for those leaving in the round of closures(being) carried out under the Labour government, but history has shown that very few of the 1,700 disabled people received even a phone call from Remploy let alone any practical support of any kind.

Remploy workers will be given access to a person budget but a recent Community Care survey showed 48% of social workers do not believe personal budgets are of high enough monetary value to achieve personalisation, while a survey by the Learning Disability Coalition into the impact of cutbacks on frontline services revealed that 47% of people with learning difficulties spend most of their time at home.

In 2012 there is a community pot of 1.5 million offered to charities and disabled peoples’ organisations to support the workers into jobs by the DWP. This may explain the keenness of the illogical ‘equality into unemployment arguments’ that some were producing but it is unlikely that Disabled People’s Organisations and the usual list of disability charities or voluntary organisations can find jobs for ex-Remploy workers where they do not exist.

 

8. The workers will be able find mainstream employment

A survey by GMB of disabled workers made redundant in 2008 revealed 74% left on State benefits and of the 26% who had found alternative work only 5% of those had found work on equal or better terms.

From the round of Remploy closures before that in the 1980s, 85% of disabled ex-employees remain unemployed . This was in a better economic climate than that of today. Some committed suicide, many threatened suicide and many experienced mental health issues, for those that already had mental health issues these were exacerbated.

Jul 182012
 

Messages of support for the striking Remploy workers

DPAC has been clear from the start that it supports the Remploy workers. The Remploy workers have overwhelming support. Below are some of the many messages DPAC has received which will be passed on

To Unite & GMB strikers at Remploy
You have our wholehearted support for your action this week and next in defence of your jobs at Remploy. The Coalition government’s treatment of disabled workers is a disgrace.
PCS members at the Equality Human Rights Commission are currently fighting plans to cut all our frontline advice and mediation services and grants programme, which will have a devastating impact on disabled people. We are with your action 100% and oppose all these attacks by a government which aims to strip disabled people of their rights and turn the clock back to the Victorian age.
In solidarity
PCS Branch Executive at the EHRC.

 

All strength to Remploy workers and their allies in their struggle. Until government successfully addresses the increasing discrimination facing disabled people, they must act on the principle that half a loaf is better than none. Of course high quality flexible mainstream employment without glass ceilings must be the goal for all disabled people. But in the meantime, the closure of Remploy factories and the resulting loss of opportunities for remploy workers just adds to the barriers and discrimination disabled people experience.

Peter Beresford OBE

Chair, Shaping Our Lives, the national disabled people’s and service users’ organisation and network

 

To the striking members at Remploy factories,

Know that every disabled person in the United Kingdom is with you in spirit, it is a terrible thing to face redundancy, as I know from personal experience, but to have your jobs axed by a cruel and calus government because it does not suit their Tory Ideology, is indefensible.

This government does not represent the will or the wishes of all the people of the United Kingdom, but infact only represents a small minority.

Now is the time to stand firm, to raise your voices and insist that people listen to what you have to say, now is the time to show the strength and courage, the determination and the fellowship which will see you through these trying times.

signed;

Tim batchelor

 

To whom it may concernm

just wanting to send you a quick message of support from Tokyo – I won`t translate the Japanese for  やったれ! (Yattare!) as it`s not appropriate for an email but it basically means keep fighting – if you can beat the government in this, imagine what hope you can give to other groups who want to fight the cuts.

I hope you get all that you all want. Good luck! 頑張れ! (Ganbare)

Tom Pengelly

 

I just wanted to show solidarity for this strike action. What sort of government would target an organisation offering employment to disabled people? These cuts are immoral and despicable. I stand with you on this issue.

> Yours,

> Catherine O’Neill

 

Very best wishes, solidarity greetings and good luck from Southwark DPAC. We will follow what is happening and be in touch again.

 

To the Remploy strikers.

We are disgusted at the Governments cynical cuts at Remploy. The proposed closures must be stopped and the labour movement support you in your fight for respect, dignity and the right to work. We offer our solidarity and pledge to support you in whatever action you take in your campaign to keep Remploy factories open.

Please contact us for any assistance you need to help you stop these closures.Unite Selex Galileo Aerospace, Shop Stewards Committee, Luton.

 

i’ll support strikes in aberdeen/shire area

 

We congratulate you on your fight against closures as a result of the Government decision to reduce current funding for Remploy. We recognise that mainstream employment is not an option for all. We support the call for more public sector contracts to be awarded to Remploy. The deliberate policy of starving Remploy factories of work has rendered them less economic, being only 50% loaded with work because either public bodies have failed to support them with work as allowed under EU rules. You have our full support and admiration. Yours, in solidarity.

Public and Commercial Services Union, HM Revenue and Customs, Dundee Branch

 

Please pass on my support to the strikers at Remploy, fighting to defend their livelihoods against this vicious Con-Dem government.  You have massive public support, and if you stand united and determined you can be part of a movement that overturns this rotten policy and kicks out this rotten government.

Ian Allinson, UNITE Executive Council member

 

Sodexo Defence Services Branch of the PCS Union sends its support and a message of solidarity to the Remploy Workers!
keep the hope alive,
Keep the fight strong,
Keep the right to work!

 

Last Saturday Sussex LRC ran a stall as part of Brighton & Hove People’s Day. People were queuing up to sign the Save Remploy petition. When talking about this issue to the general public, the most common responses we heard were “it’s a disgrace” and “it’s disgusting”. Remploy workers should be well aware that they have the public full square behind them in this struggle with an uncaring Minister and her callous Coalition.
Claire Wadey, Chair, Sussex LRC

 

all remploy strikers
you keep fighting to keep your jobs this goverment is a disgrace to our country the conservatives should be removed out of power and as for ian duncan smith with what he said about remploy workers sit on their arse and drink tea that is discusting he should of been removed straight away. I dont know why they keep saying that there is jobs out there if that is so why have we got two and a quarter million unemployed or is david cameron saying that all these people are to lazy to go to work if the work is out there why doesent he get up off his arse and get people the jobs that he says that are out there the whole party are on another planet. how can we have someone running this country who wants to cut down our forces just as well he hasnt done it yet other wise we would be in a mess with the olympics thats how crazy he is.well anyway getting back to disability i have epilepsy and the dwp have just called me up on the 30th of this month to try and stop my severe disablement allowance and are going to put me through a work focus interview and a interview with personal adviser to get me back into work god knows where they think they will get me a job i think all they want to do is take my other benefit off me to save the goverment money the same as they are doing to you people so wish me luck everyone and all the best to the remploy workers stay strong and dont let these arseholes get the better of you
best wishes
paul

 

Having spent 8-months on the Tories unemployment scrapheap I know well that it is not a fit place for any worker. We must stand united disabled and non-disabled, employed and unemployed to fight back against the vicious austerity cuts. Solidarity to all Remploy workers taking strike action to defend your jobs, you can count on the full support of the Right to Work campaign for any action necessary to win this fight.

Mark Dunk – Right to Work

 

We are disgusted at the Governments cynical cuts at Remploy. The proposed closures must be stopped and the labour movement support you in your fight for respect, dignity and the right to work. We offer our solidarity and pledge to support you in whatever action you take in your campaign to keep Remploy factories open.
Please contact us for any assistance you need to help you stop these closures.
Unite Selex Galileo Aerospace, Shop Stewards Committee, Luton.