Remploy fight reaches Parliament
REMPLOY giants raised gasps and eyebrows when they stopped traffic in the middle of Liverpool that morning, and strode up the steps of the Adelphi hotel. But these workers had made and donned their carnival costumes to raise attention for a serious issue, and in our picture, they raised support and signatures from fellow trades unionists attending the national conference of trades union councils.
That was six years ago. But the Remploy fight for survival goes on.
REMPLOY factories don't just provide a job and a living for thousands of disabled workers. They produce among other things protective suits that could save the lives of members of the emergency services and armed forces called upon to cope with chemical, bacteriological or radiation hazards.
Such are their designers' and workers' skills they have won an international award for this.
So why are the Remploy workers having to fight to save their jobs?
The last Labour government under Blair and Brown said it wanted to help disabled people into work. David Cameron's Con-Dem coalition perhaps less hypocritically puts the emphasis on getting people off benefit.
But under both New Labour and Tories the Remploy workers have seen contracts and jobs taken away, and now the state-owned Remploy factories are facing closure unless government policy is changed.
The General, Municipal and Boilermakers' union, GMB, which represents many Remploy workers, staged a lobby of Parliament to save Remploy back in October, and this week MPs will debate Remploy's future, on Thursday afternoon.
The union says hundreds of local authorities will come under the spotlight for failing to support the factories which provide disabled staff with productive work.
And MPs will be told that it would cost the Treasury less to keep the 54 sites open than to make 4,000 workers redundant.
Most Remploy staff who lost their jobs in 2008 are still on welfare, the union will say. Many of the factories have maintained a successful track record since 1946 but are being starved of contracts by councils and even their own management.
GMB national officer Phil Davies said: "The factories are rendered less economic by only being 50 per cent loaded with work, either because public bodies have failed to support them as allowed under EU rules or because their own managers are turning down work."
GMB members at Remploy were campaigning for a full quota of work which would allow the sites to remain open, he said. "Making uniforms for the armed forces, emergency services and medical staff and supplying schools would more than keep them busy," Mr Davies argued.
MPs will be told to answer for the failure of 201 councils which have refused to give work to Remploy factories. And the government will be grilled on its plan to end public funding for Remploy in April 2013 and to privatise the employment services it provides. All 54 Remploy factories will close if the scheme goes ahead.
The union is calling on the public to get involved by lobbying MPs and councillors to provide contracts for the firm.
Report Union takes Remploy fight into Parliament, Will Stone, Morning Star
Remploy wins Award: