Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Disabled hit back

LISTENING to a TV studio discussion on incapacity benefits the other evening I noticed that neither the government spokesperson nor anyone else was mentioning the fiction of recent years about "helping people back into work".

All we got was that old refrain about making sure the money reaches those who most need it, by which they really mean the bankers, the ministers with business interests on the side, and companies like Atos, the French computer firm which has a lucrative contract interviewing people and assessing their supposed fitness to be at work.

Not that the government can guarantee there is going to be any actual paid work. In fact, following on Cameron's promise in January to "kill the Health and Safety culture", it is slashing HSE inspections and staff so both adding to the unemployed and guaranteeing more dead or disabled. With firms being encouraged to take on people who are expected to work for their benefits, or Workfare, why would they bother hiring anyone, let alone disabled people who may need special arrangements?

As for the many disabled people who do often skilled work in places like Remploy, it was aanounced on March 7 that all 54 Remploy factories are to close. Maria Miller, the minister responsible said 36 could be closed by the end of the year, with the rest expected to follow.

The government claims that Remploy factories are inefficient, which is odd considering they were trusted with such work as special clothing for the armed forces and emergency services, and that more recently £1.8 million was handed out by the government in bonuses to Remploy bosses, presumably for their help in running down the company.

The closures will mean a potential 1,752 compulsory redundancies. Maria Miller claims there are better ways to assist the disabled, but with six people already chasing every job in this country, Remploy workers faced with losing theirs don't see it that way. Of those made redundant in previous closures in 2007 only 6 per cent found alternative employment.

Interviewed by the BBC after the minister's announccment last month, Les Woodward, 58, a wood machinist at the Remploy factory in Swansea, and a Remploy national convener, described the decision as "absolutely devastating".

"Angry is too small a word," he said.

"It's all part of the government cuts agenda.

"It's got nothing to do with looking after disabled people, there's no rhyme or reason to it.

"There are 54 Remploy factories employing 2,000 disabled people.

"All that is going to come out of this is that 2,000 disabled people are going to be added to the unemployment figures".

At a meeting of the Southern and Eastern Region TUC in London at the weekend, disabled delegates struggled to the mike but had a harder struggle to contain their anger with this government.

They called for support for a demonstration this Friday at midday, to save Remploy.
This will assemble at noon outside the Department of Work and Pensions in Tothill Street, SW1H 9HA,(nr. St.James Park tube or Westminster) and march to Old Palace Yard, Westminster, SW1P 3JY, for a rally with speakers.

It is supported by the GMB and Unite trade unions.

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