Remploy strikers in Norwich warn closure would mean ‘no future’ for disabled workers
PUBLISHED: 13:53 19 July 2012 | UPDATED: 14:07 19 July 2012
Workers at a Norwich factory are on the picket line today with the warning that its closure would leave disabled employees “on the scrapheap”.
Remploy in Norwich employs 26 disabled people in its workforce of 39, but faces an uncertain future amid government cuts.
Nationally, 36 of the 54 facilities have been told they are at risk of closure, and though the packaging factory in Norwich is not one of them, unions fear it will be part of “Phase Two” as the government re-routes funding from subsidised employment into other ways to get disabled people into work.
Ian Carr, shop steward for the Unite union, who organised the strike with the GMB, called the cuts “appalling”.
“Most of these people won’t find jobs elsewhere. This is meaningful work, where they are working on multi-million-pound machinery and making a contribution to society.
“The idea that these factories are institutionalising people is wrong. They give a purpose to disabled people.”
Mr Carr said unions were concerned about the transfer of employees’ terms and conditions if the Norwich factory, in Paddock Street, off Heigham Street, were to be sold to a private bidder.
He added: “We know most of these employees will never again work somewhere like this. They will be pushing trolleys or handing out leaflets in a supermarket. That’s not meaningful work.”
Harvey Cann, shop steward for the GMB, has learning difficulties and has worked at the factory for 22 years, having joined at 18.
He said: “Most employers won’t touch us with a barge pole – they can’t see past the disability. They don’t see the skills we have.
“When it comes to jobs, the disabled person won’t get a look-in.”
He said disabled people would be “easy prey” for managers to let go if factories were sold off in future.
“People with disabilities are severely penalised and even bullied.
“It’s simple – there won’t be a future for us. We will be left on the scrapheap.”