By Don Mackay
A FIGHTBACK against the closure of factories employing more than 1500 disabled workers will be launched today.
Campaigners, backed by the GMB and Unite unions, fear many of the staff will never work again if the Government go ahead with plans to shut 36 of Remploy’s 54 factories.
Hundreds of disabled workers are expected to march on Parliament after a national rally in London next Friday.
Glen Holdom, GMB officer for Remploy, said: “We must show the strength of feeling that taking jobs from disabled people should not be tolerated in a civilised society.
“It will not improve the country’s financial situation – it may well make it worse.”
The Government claim the factories are not viable and that it costs £25,000 a year to keep each disabled person in a job.
They say that money could be better spent funding schemes to help the workers find mainstream jobs.
But a GMB survey found that 90 per cent of 2000 Remploy workers who took redundancy in 2008 were not working a year later.
National secretary Phil Davies said: “These were the less disabled workers who thought they had a better chance of getting work than their less fortunate colleagues.
“The Government thinks disabled workers will be absorbed into the mainstream but our survey is proof it is not going to work. It just won’t happen.
“Many of those who left are now taking their pension early at 55 when they could be working and contributing to the economy.
“No one will buy these factories, they will be asset stripped of equipment and left for redevelopment instead of keeping disabled people in jobs.
“It is an attack on the most vulnerable members of our society.”
Among the 36 factories due to close are those in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Motherwell. The closures will mean the loss of 1752 jobs – 1518 of them disabled workers.
Scot Rab Leggatt who works for Remploy in Preston, Lancashire, believes the skills he’s learned could help him find a job elsewhere.
However, the 52-year-old epilepsy and glaucoma sufferer fears for many of his colleagues.
Rab said: “I think I would have a good chance but if this factory closes down 75 per cent of people here would never work again.
“Employers don’t look at you as people, they only see disability.”