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Remploy staff on strike today in bid to save Wirral factory
REMPLOY staff in Wirral are on strike today in a bid to save their factory from closure. The site in Hickman’s Road, Birkenhead, is one of 27 facing the axe and due to close in September.
Staff are currently being consulted on redundancy packages. Today's action is the first of two 24-hour strikes taking place at the firm’s sites across the country.
The second is due to take place next Thursday, July 26. Last week, the government announced 27 factories will close by the end of the year throwing about 1,700 disabled workers out-of-work.
A further nine factories face an uncertain future. The remaining 18 sites are due to close or be sold-off next year.
Gareth Rees, 34, is a shop steward for GMB, and has worked at the factory in Hickman’s Road for 12 years.
He told the Globe: “You can speak to anyone of the 30 staff who work here and none of us are looking forward to a future of being on benefits.
“There are people who have worked here for 35 years, want to keep working but know nothing else. Our future is uncertain, and a lot of people will be thrown on the scrapheap.
“I suffer from cystic fibrosis and am going to find it hard to find another job in the outside world.
“Are outside companies going to make concessions for people who are disabled and who require regular trips to hospital? I’m not so sure.”
Unite called on the Westminster government to follow the example of the Welsh Government which has pledged £2.4 million for employers who give jobs to Remploy workers when the factories in Wales close.
Unite’s national officer for the not-for-profit sector, Sally Kosky said: “We are expecting the vast majority of the workforce across the 54 factories to strike tomorrow.
“They are rightly angry that they face a bleak future on the dole, as it is always more difficult for those with disabilities to obtain employment.
“Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith should take a lesson from the Cardiff government which has shown compassion and practical financial help to keep Remploy workers in jobs for at least four years.”
It is understood that an offer from the private sector to take over the Wrexham factory was turned down without consideration by the government Unite said that this demonstrated that ministers were “hell bent on dismantling the 67-year history of Remploy for purely ideological reasons”.
The workers voted to strike because they believe the proposed closure negotiations were ‘a sham’.
They are also protesting at the intention to make disabled people compulsorily redundant for the first time at Remploy and that the redundancy pay will be less than previous voluntary redundancies.
Unite and the GMB unions have been campaigning to keep the Remploy factories open as viable businesses and cite the recent upbeat assessment of Remploy’s future prospects from Alan Hill, managing director, Remploy Enterprise Businesses who wrote that: “We have grown our sales by 12.2%, a fantastic achievement.”
In a statement on the company’s website this afternoon, Remploy said: “The company is disappointed that the GMB and Unite Unions have called their Remploy members out on strike action on July 19 and 26.
“Strike action will do nothing to secure the future jobs of Remploy staff. “We are concerned that industrial action could deter future buyers for the nine factories which are subject to the commercial process and for the current contracts and future prospects of the remaining 18 Remploy factories”