What is going to happen to Remploy?
Rumours that thousands of disabled Remploy workers face redundancy have been getting stronger ever since Francis Maude’s quango hit list revealed that the future of the public corporation was still “under consideration”. More than 3,000 disabled people work at Remploy’s 54 factories, located all over the country, and the Daily Telegraph reports that “many of the factories will be earmarked for closure as part of next week’s spending review” but that the company’s employment service, which supports thousands of people into open employment will be saved.
At the moment, the Telegraph is the only newspaper reporting this as a fact, but worried local and regional papers are running stories in many of the towns and cities that have Remploy factories: I’ve noted reports in Aberdeen, Blackburn, Bradford, Newcastle, Sunderland and Wrexham.
Nowadays, Remploy may be the largest nationalised corporation in the manufacturing sector, founded in 1945 as part of the post-war welfare state. Remploy is not the only organisation running supported factories, and the other providers – which usually rely heavily on local authority funding – are also under a great deal of pressure at the moment.
When the last government closed about a third of Remploy’s factories the company’s highly unionised workforce ran an extremely effective campaign that resulted in the closures being carried out without any compulsory redundancies. The scope for offering such a deal will be much more limited this time and the workers will be afraid that, with two and a half million people already unemployed, their prospects of ever working again will be small. Their incentive to resist will be powerful indeed.