Remploy Strike Ballot

16 Feb 2011

Disabled workers employed by Remploy who are GMB members were today (15/2/11) given authority by the GMB Central Executive Council (CEC) to conduct a national official industrial action ballot over redundancies in the 54 sheltered workshops across Britain. The CEC was told that GMB members in Remploy have already voted in a consultative ballot by a majority of 5 to 1 to take strike action.

The ballot will take place amongst GMB members at 57 Remploy factories in Aberdare, Aberdeen, Abertillery, Acton, Ashington, Barking, Barrow, Birkenhead, Birmingham, Blackburn, Bolton, Bridgend, Bristol, Burnley, Chesterfield, Cleator Moor, Clydebank, Coventry, Cowdenbeath, Croespenmaen, Derby, Dundee, Edinburgh, Gateshead, Heywood, Huddersfield, Leeds, Leicester, Leicester Head Office, Leven, Manchester, Merthyr Tydfil, Motherwell, Neath Port Talbot, Newcastle, North London, North Staffordshire, Norwich, Oldham, Penzance, Pontefract, Poole, Porth, Portsmouth, Preston, Sheffield, Southampton, Spennymoor, Springburn, Stirling, Sunderland, Swansea, Wallasey, Wigan, Worksop and Wrexham.

It is expected that preparing for the ballot will take at least six weeks and it will be conducted by the Electoral Reform Services (ERS).

Remploy last month told GMB that proposals for voluntary redundancy were being rolled out across the company from Monday 31st January 2011. This was just 7 days after the legal consultation period of 90 days commenced on the 24th January 2011. Remploy went on to inform over 3,400 employees by letter on the 26th January 2011 just 3 days after the official consultation commenced on the 24th January 2011 that the redundancy package would be rolled out on Monday 31st January 2011 and that they should seek to volunteer for redundancy.

The GMB CEC were told that following the closure of 29 Remploy factories in 2008 the vast majority of workers (85%) who were made redundant are still unemployed and on benefits with no prospects of finding work. They were also told that the Remploy management have made little or no progress in finding work for the remaining Remploy factories in spite of the fact that the EU rules allow public bodies to place orders with sheltered workshop outside or normal procurement arrangements.

The GMB CEC were advised of an alternative plan that the Remploy unions have put to the government as an alternative way ahead. Part of than plan is to reverse the rise in the number of managers which had increased despite the reduction in the number of factories and shop floor workers. In total the Remploy unions have put forward a plan to cut £30million from costs while making Remploy viable.

Paul Kenny, GMB General Secretary said, “The GMB CEC has given authority for an official national industrial action ballot to take place in the 54 Remploy factories over the redundancies and the run down of employment in these sheltered workshops.

The Big Society, if its exists, must surely encompass society finding useful work for disabled workers. It should encompass local communities taking advantage of the EU procurement rules to award contacts to sheltered workshops to make things like uniforms, school furniture and other useful things the Remploy workers make. After the war the then society made sure that it looked after disabled workers when it set up the Remploy factory network.

Members of the GMB CEC remarked that the Tories under Mrs Thatcher used to say that there is no such thing as society now we have the Tories saying it’s a ‘big’ society. With this deliberate run down of employment in Remploy, GMB members are fed up of being lectured on the big society by those in high society. It has come to a sorry pass when disabled workers have to go on strike to stay in work and stay off the dole. 85% of those who lost their jobs in Remploy in 2008 are still on the dole.”