May 20 2013 Latest news:
Sukran Sahin, Senior Reporter
Thursday, July 19, 2012
Disabled workers from Barking Remploy put down their tools as they joined thousands of colleagues around the country to protest against the closure of their factories.
Around 50 employees who now face the dole queue and an estimated 50 members of family, friends and from other unions were on the picket line outside the Long Reach Road site for the first of two national, 24-hour strikes today.
Julie Haynes, Unite shop steward at the Barking factory, estimated that up to a hundred people had joined the protest.
Summing up the atmosphere, she said: “It was really good - we had more people on the picket line than we were expecting. Everyone was in high spirits.”
Around 2,800 people are employed by the government-owned company, which last week announced the closure of 27 of its 54 factories including the Barking facility, by December this year.
This will mean that over 1,400 employees face redundancy by the end of the year, with the remaining factories due to close in 2013.
Council leader Liam Smith, who visited protesters to show his support said: “The Barking Remploy factory provides valuable work for local disabled people. From speaking to them today I was moved by the level of pride they take in their work, and the big impact it would have on them if they were put out of work.
“It’s hard enough for people to find work during a recession, but the sad truth is that disabled people often find it even harder to get jobs. That’s why Remploy is such a valuable part of the local economy. To lose it would be a terrible blow.”
The government insists that the Remploy factories, which employ people with disabilities, are not financially viable.
The Department for Work and Pensions wants to use the £320million budget for disability employment to get disabled people into mainstream employment through the Access to Work programme instead.
Maria Miller, minister for disabled people said: “Access to Work is the type of support which fits the needs and aspirations of disabled people in the 21st century so they can get the same jobs as everyone else to lead full and independent lives.”