Last week, the Minister for Disabled People, Maria “Factory Killer” Miller announced the closure of 27 of the 54 Remploy factories meaning the sacking of more than 1,200 mainly disabled workers.
The outrage at this callous Tory decision was not only reflected in the solid strikes, the first of two 24-hour stoppages (the next being next Thursday 26th July), but also in the solidarity from other workers on display at each picket line.
Teachers, council staff , IT workers, construction workers, students and more brought banners and collections to the picket-lines. Postal workers and lorry-drivers refused to cross picket lines.
The stand taken by Unite and GMB members at Remploy is an example to the whole trade union movement about how to fight job losses.
A Unite steward in East London took the Remploy collection sheet round her workmates.
“I raised the Remploy strike at our union meeting. My colleagues were disgusted by the attacks on Remploy workers. Not only was I able to collect more than £100 from my workmates, one of them told me to come back if Remploy workers needed more support for their struggle.”
Work and Pensions minister Iain Duncan Smith says that he says that he wants to get disabled workers into mainstream employment or “proper jobs”.
Daniel Garvin’s film on the Guardian website contradicts IDS’s despicable insult that Remploy workers were “not doing any work… just making cups of coffee”
But millions can see through the Tories – they know that with more than 2.5 million unemployed and disability benefits being slashed, the standard of living for many Remploy workers will be immeasurably damaged, should their factories close.
Since the last wave of Remploy factory closures in 2008, 85% of those made redundant have not worked since, and 95% of those that found employment were on less pay.
Today’s marvellous show of solidarity was a step towards winning the battle for jobs. Next week the picket-lines need to be bigger and a strategy implemented for forcing another Tory U-turn and saving the factories.
A West London Remploy striker expressed the potential shown by the strike:
“This is just the beginning. This campaign will get bigger and bigger.”