Following a 100% vote in favour of strike action, pickets were out in force at the Remploy factory in Springburn (Glasgow) on Monday 3 September, the first day of a week-long strike. Remploy workers in Chesterfield were also out on strike.
Phil Brannan, who works in the Springburn factory and is GMB Remploy Shop Stewards Convenor (Scotland), explained the background to the strike to Solidarity:
“The strike in Springburn will be for four days because we work a four-day, 35-hour week here. But in Chesterfield they work a night shift as well, so the strike there will be for five days.
“The only person working on the first day of the strike was a Human Resources consultant brought in by the company to shut us down or sell us off. He’s paid £300 a day. That’s more than what we earn in a week.
“The reason for the strike is that although five and a half months have passed since the government announced that Remploy factories were to be closed or privatised, we’re still in a state of total ignorance about our future. The same goes for Chesterfield.
“We don’t know if we’re going to be shut down and all made redundant or taken over, and if we are taken over we don’t know anything about what our terms and conditions would be, or what the procedure would be if there were redundancies after a takeover.
“Members are at their wits’ end. For five and a half months we’ve been asking which companies may be taking us over so that we can talk with them. But no-one will tell us who they are.
“There were people looking at the factory last Thursday. But we had to threaten to occupy the canteen to force them to talk to us, and even then they would meet us only on condition that they would not say what company they were working for.
“We’ve been told that we won’t get any protection under the TUPE legislation because if we are privatised, then it would be a buyout and not a TUPE transfer.
“Our fear is that the first people who would get made redundant would be the ones who are the most disabled.
“We’ve also been told that there won’t be any protection for our pensions, and it would be up to the new owners, if we are taken over, to decide whether they want to talk to the recognised unions. But our recognition agreement, the Remploy Accord, is a legally binding document.
“A week last Thursday nine of us, including four shop stewards who had already been made redundant just the previous week, occupied the Remploy head offices in Leicester.
“We wanted answers to all the questions we have, but were told that all the directors were away or on Annual Leave.
“When they finally got one of them, the Finance Director, on the speakerphone, he gave us the usual answers, but also said that there was no protection for our final-salary pensions and no guarantee that union recognition would continue if we were sold off.
“Just last week the DWP announced that what they called significant new information had come to light regarding Remploy Healthcare (one of the five business ‘streams’ in Remploy) and the bidding process had therefore been postponed for at least a week.
“As of today we still don’t know what that information is. That’s typical of the contempt they treat us with.
“The government is saying that we are putting jobs at risk by going on strike and that we should be talking to Remploy.
“But Remploy have had two and a half weeks to speak to us since we gave them notice of the strike and have not bothered. And when we do speak to them, they tell us that they don’t know what’s going on as they have not been told themselves.
“We’re not against a takeover, but we’re not prepared to accept jobs at any price. We’re not going to accept standing an auction box in order to be sold off to the highest bidder, as if we were going to work on the plantations in Jamaica.”
Donations to support the Remploy workers should be sent to: Phil Davies, GMB, 22-24 Worple Road, London, SW19 4DD. Cheques should be made payable to: Remploy Fighting Fund.