Gwent Remploy workers strike over closures

PROTEST: Workers, union officials and supporters outside the Remploy factory in Croespenmaen

PROTEST: Workers, union officials and supporters outside the Remploy factory in Croespenmaen

First published in News

GWENT Remploy workers took part in a 24-hour strike yesterday, blasting the Westminster government for giving them a “bleak future”, with little chance of ever working again.

Workers in Abertillery were told their factory will close around August 18, with those at Croespenmaen left in limbo. They were told there’s a potential buyer for the site, but will find out if this materialises by September.

There are 70 disabled people employed at the two Gwent sites – many employed by Remploy since school.

But leading hand at the Croespenmaen site Mike Winnell said: “Half wouldn’t be able to survive in any other job.”

The UK Government is planning to close 27 of the country’s 54 Remploy factories, with the other 27 under threat.

Mandy Webb, GMB union representative in Abertillery, said staff have been offered three weeks’ pay for every year they have worked.

In Croespenmaen, MPs Chris Evans andWayneDavid and AM Gwyn Price joined pickets.

They blasted the UK Government for not devolving responsibility for Remploy to the Welsh Government, saying this would have offered “a lifeline” to workers.

They also pointed to the fact that the packaging business at Croespenmaen has a number of valuable contracts with companies such as BAE Systems.

The factory has taken on many people from school, including Lisa Halliwell, 40, from Oakdale and Alison Ducie, 43, from Cefn Fforest, while 59-year-old Deryck Burton has been there 37 years.

Ms Halliwell said: “It has been our lives since school.

We won’t get another job like this.”

Unite national officer Sally Kosky said: “They face a bleak future as it’s always more difficult for those with disabilities to obtain employment.”

A Department for Works and Pensions spokesman said £8 million is being spent to guarantee tailored support for every disabled person affected.

Factories making losses IN A letter to workers in Abertillery, disabled people minister Maria Miller said the closures aren’t about budget cuts.

She said the £320 million budget for specialist disability employment has been protected to support thousands more disabled people by spending it “more effectively”.

She added that nearly all Remploy factories are making significant losses and the Government has a responsibility to the 12,900 disabled people in Blaenau Gwent, not just those who work at the factory.

GMB union representative Ian Lloyd pointed to the contracts Remploy factories have with companies and to the work experience and jobs they provide to schoolchildren and school leavers.

Abertillery GMB representative Mandy Webb said she believes the plan was “rushed through”.

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