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Tuesday, 23 September 2014

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Downing Street mission to save Remploy jobs

A DELEGATION of Barrow Remploy workers took the fight to save their jobs to 10 Downing Street. Reporter DAVID PICKTHALL travelled to the capital with the campaigners

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EARLIER THIS YEAR: Councillors and employees protest at the closure of Remploy in the centre of Barrow while Margaret Burrow, from the Barrow and District Disability Association, collects signatures on a petition REF: 50031523B000

AS the train left Barrow railway station at 7.29am on Wednesday, it was not long before the politician whose proposal threatens to shut 36 Remploy factories across the country was mentioned.

Barrow’s Flass Lane plant would close under Iain Duncan Smith’s plans for Remploy, with the loss of 21 jobs.

A newspaper article in which the work and pensions secretary claimed Remploy staff were “not doing any work” and “just making cups of coffee” was passed among the Barrow workers aboard the carriage as they headed for London.

Jayne Greenhalgh, Barrow Remploy team leader, said: “It just shows how out of touch they are with actually what’s going on.

“By closing us, what they’re actually going to do is make every single person sit drinking coffee at home every day.”

The Barrow delegation, with Barrow GMB union representative Steve Forbes, travelled to Whitehall on the day worried Remploy colleagues from across the country went to Parliament to lobby MPs over the cuts – which would see 1,500 disabled people’s jobs axed nationwide.

Rather than join that debate, the Barrow employees and Barrow and Furness MP John Woodcock delivered a petition with more than 2,000 signatures to 10 Downing Street.

Ms Greenhalgh, 45, of Flass Gardens, Barrow, said that Prime Minister David Cameron should visit the Flass Lane plant, which manufactures air filters, to witness the level of output.

Ms Greenhalgh, who is 70 per cent deaf, is adamant Barrow’s Remploy remains viable and believes it is immoral to swing the axe.

She said: “For myself personally, I could lose my home. I’ve worked all my life and paid tax all my life.

“We lost 13 people to voluntary redundancy last year and one of them has found employment.

“And I know the most severely disabled person has had no after-care or anything. All social services will say to us is, she’s not at risk.

“Some of the workers – they’ve got no experience and very little skills.

“They work with like-minded people and feel safe and know they can talk to us. We’re like a little family there.

“But, at the end of the day, we’ve got a bloody good business there.

“If we were sat there with no work at all, I wouldn’t be fighting this.”

The government says a revised £320m budget for specialist disability employment would support thousands more disabled people in work.

Janet Hogden, Barrow Remploy sales administrator, has worked there for 15 years.

The 53-year-old thinks the founding principles of the organisation have been forgotten.

She said: “If I lose my job, I will have to go on income support, which I don’t want to do. I’ve worked all my life. I’ve always worked.

“I’m not ready to retire.

“I think it’s wrong. Remploy has lost sight of what it is. It’s about re-employing people, and it was originally for the soldiers returning from war.

“The people down there put 110 per cent into their job.

“I’ve seen the business grow. I’ve been there since it was brought up from Oldham.

“There are very vulnerable people who have not got a chance, but down at Remploy, they’re very productive and I think you could employ more people down there, if given the chance to keep it open and run it right.

“It stinks and I don’t think they will get the support they need when they leave. On paper, it might seem fine.

“But the reality is, it’s a hard world out there.”

As the train headed from London Euston back to Barrow, the campaigners, buoyed by what they called a “milestone” in their fight, were already mulling over their next move.

When the party connected at Lancaster, ahead of a return to Barrow at 9.20pm, Mr Forbes, GMB Barrow secretary, reflected: “Hopefully the government will see sense and reverse their decision and keep the Remploy factories open, because there are a lot of people who, if they don’t reverse their decision, will be on the employment scrapheap and there’s nowhere for them to go.

“It’s really encouraging people are trying to change the government’s mind and hopefully that’s what we’ve done today.”

Have your say

Were they sitting around drinking coffee all day? Sounds like too much of an accurate description to be untrue

Posted by Working Man on 12 May 2012 at 09:45

My wife works in remploy barking and has learning difficulties. Since they announced the closure of remploy she is suffering from depression and panic attacks i don't no what to do.

Posted by iain florey on 12 May 2012 at 09:06

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