Friday, 18 May 2012 8:24 AM
By Ian Dunt
Iain Duncan Smith has refused to apologise after suggesting unemployed workers at Remploy just made cups of coffee.
The work and pensions secretary, who has presided over plans which could leave 1,518 disabled Remploy workers out of work, became embroiled in an acrimonious debate with campaigners earlier this month when staff from the Daily Express handed in a petition demanding he rethink the decision.
“Is it a kindness to stick people in some factory where they are not doing any work at all? Just making cups of coffee?” he is reported to have said.
“I promise you this is better. Taking this decision was a balance between how much do I want to spend keeping a number of people in Remploy factories not producing stuff versus getting people into proper jobs.”
When a Remploy worker said they worked in their factory, Mr Duncan Smith reportedly replied: “You don’t produce very much at all.”
Asked why workers were being stripped of the choice to chose between segregated or mainstream workplace , the former Tory leader said: “How far do you want to go with the idea that you can choose to do exactly what you want?”
“The reality is for those that are not viable it does not make any sense at all keeping people sitting not doing anything.”
Labour called on the former Tory leader to apologise to the Commons yesterday, but to no avail.
“It’s appalling that Iain Duncan Smith refused to apologise to Remploy workers when I challenged him in the House of Commons,” Liam Byrne, shadow work and pensions secretary, said.
“Remploy workers work hard for a living and they deserve to be treated with respect not contempt, particularly by a man who is sacking them.”
Disability campaigners say the Remploy factories are efficient state-owned outlets which carry out various tasks, form retail packaging to the re-cycling of government IT equipment.
The government recently made significant concession in the wake of protests about the closures, extending the deadline for submissions for those considering taking over the factories and offering short-term subsidies of up to a third of the wages of the units’ disabled workers.