Remploy strike over pay-off

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STAFF at the Remploy factory in Netherton branded minister for disabled people Maria Miller a ‘career killer’ as they went on strike last week.

The Netherhall Road facility provides storage and packing services employing 22 people, 20 of whom are disabled, but is set to close in October as the Government announced it is to cease funding the operation.

Staff staged the first of two one-day walkouts last Thursday, the second being tomorrow (Thursday), in a bid to get a fair severance package.

They are upset that their pay-off will not match those of colleagues who had previously accepted voluntary redundancy.

Benny Rankin, of the GMB Union, said: “The decision to close the factory is shocking, but it’s a decision that has been made and there is nothing we can do about it so it has been reluctantly accepted.

“Our members are really on strike to get the same package as previous workers who took voluntary redundancy.

“A lot of the workers applied for the voluntary redundancy package and didn’t get it, so now they are being made to take compulsory redundancy all they want is to be treated fairly.

“Motherwell and Wishaw MP Frank Roy spoke to the workers about what might happen three to six months down the line and that is encouraging, but in the meantime we continue to fight for parity.”

North Lanarkshire Council is currently drawing up a business plan looking at extending its Beltane product workshop in Wishaw to provide employment for the Remploy workers.

The Glasgow Road facility currently offers work to 140 disabled people making a range of furniture, bedding and curtains and this year celebrates its 50th anniversary.

Mr Roy said: “First and foremost I was there to show my support to a group of workers who don’t want to go on the dole, they want to continue working.

“I was also updating them on the council’s plans for the Beltane expansion which I have very high hopes for and am hoping that legislation can be used which allows for public procurement in order to create jobs for disabled people.

“This won’t happen in the next few weeks, I didn’t want them to think that Remploy will close in October and they’ll start at Beltane the next day, but I do hope everything can be sorted so that at some point they will all be given the opportunity to receive an interview and the chance of work.

“In the meantime I have written to the minister asking what is available to anyone who may wish to purchase the factory site and to potential employers, as it could be that at least some wages are subsidised.”

Remploy workers David Walker and Jim Rooney expressed their frustration at the Government’s decision.

David (57), who has learning difficulties, said: “I’ve been here since I left school and I don’t know what I am going to do.

“All the staff work hard and we all get on great. What is happening is terrible for us all.

“I will need to try and get a new job but it will be very, very hard for me. What am I going to do?”

Jim (51), who suffers from diabetes, added: “We feel so disappointed and let down.

“Remploy is not a factory building, its a group of people, people who are losing their jobs and shouldn’t be.”