UNION chiefs have slammed the move and branded it as slavery after it was revealed the plan is to ensure the redundant workers keep their benefits.
NEW benefit rules that will force disabled people to work as unpaid shelf-stackers have been condemned as modern-day slavery.
Staff made redundant by the closure of Remploy factories will be among those who will have to do the work placements – or risk losing their benefits.
The controversial mandatory placements already apply to tens of thousands of job seekers on the Government’s Work Programme who have been unemployed for more than a year.
But, from today, ill or disabled peopled deemed fit to work at some point in the future will be subject to the same rules.
That includes Remploy workers made redundant since the UK Government started to withdraw their financial support for the factories, which provided employment for long-term disabled across the country, in March.
Remploy sites in Motherwell, Aberdeen and Edinburgh have already closed – and the one in Glasgow’s Springburn will also shut after a takeover bid by a wheelchair manufacturer was controversially blocked.
Now there are fears that the 50 staff facing redundancy in Glasgow will be forced – along with thousands of other disabled Scots – to stack shelves in supermarkets or clean private homes under the Coalition’s new programme.
Phil Brannan, the GMB union’s Springburn factory shop steward, said the rule change is the final insult to disabled people.
“First you make it more difficult for disabled people to claim any support at all, then you make them work for nothing.
“It is just slavery. When you make someone work for nothing, what else can you call it?”
Brannan added that the new rules would make it even harder for disabled people to get a job.
“We’ve already seen that in the charity sector. When Remploy-funded work placements are withdrawn, the jobs become redundant because organisations can’t or won’t pay the full wage.
“Now they have no incentive to employ disabled people, because they can get them for free.”
Under the Work Programme rules drawn up by the Department for Work and Pensions, disabled people will be told to take unpaid positions or risk losing up to 70 per cent of their employment support allowance.
Across the UK, 340,000 disabled people have been placed in the Work-related Activity Group. It means they must take part in programmes to help them get back to work, including training and job-hunting – and now mandatory work placements.
Campaigners say many have been wrongly placed in the group, because of serious problems with the health assessments being run by private contractors Atos.
Capability Scotland’s director of external affairs Richard Hamer said there were serious concerns about putting disabled people in work placements that might not suit them.
“Simply forcing people into any job without proper consideration of their disability and individual needs is a recipe for failure.
“The fact that people face losing their benefits if they refuse to take a job will be of real concern to many disabled Scots, including those affected by the Remploy closures, at a time when they are already feeling vulnerable due to the UK Government’s welfare cuts.”
Hamer said the Con-Dems should instead address the barriers faced by disabled people who can and want to work by creating “long-term, sustainable job opportunities”.
Anne McGuire MP, Labour’s shadow minister for the disabled, said:
“We’ve always been clear that the mandatory work placements are not useful.
“Every individual has to be treated according to their circumstances and asking disabled people, or sick people who are still receiving treatment, to go into work placements with a threat to their benefits is unacceptable.”