Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Low Graphics

Friday, August 27, 1999 Published at 16:50 GMT 17:50 UK


Disabled workers 'denied choice'

The government says it wants to help disabled people into work

Plans to close 12 Remploy factories go to the heart of government policy on welfare to work, claim union leaders.

The BBC's Angus Crawford reports on the cuts being made to Remploy
The GMB says disabled workers are being denied the right to choose where they want to work because of a closure and merger policy being carried out by Remploy.

But the company, which helps get disabled people into mainstream employment as well as running factories, says it has to modernise and be more competitive.

It drew up a corporate plan at the beginning of the year in response to a government decision to freeze its subsidy to Remploy.

The government says segregated workplaces are "old fashioned". It favours disabled people being offered the chance to work in mainstream jobs.

Liberal Democrat Social Security Spokesman Mark Oaten: "The new plans are all pilots"
But disability groups say that many do not have the confidence to do so, and prefer the kind of sheltered employment offered by a Remploy factory.

They are also concerned that employment schemes for the disabled appear to be being cut back, at a time when the government is vaunting its welfare to work scheme.

The government denies plans for Remploy are cuts driven.


Remploy was set up in 1945 following the Second World War and as a result of the 1944 Disabled Persons (Employment) Act.

It was initially known as the Disabled Person Employment Corporation Ltd, but changed its name to Remploy in 1949.

Most of its initial employees were ex-servicemen disabled in the war.

Its first factory opened in Bridgend in April 1946, and made violins and furniture.

By 1952, there were 91 factories covering industries as diverse as knitwear, packaging and engineering, and employing nearly 6,000 severely disabled people.

In its first years, officials were split over whether Remploy should be a commercial or a social venture.

Part of the problem was that factories were built where there was an available workforce, rather than where there were raw materials or markets.

The company says the situation was improved in 1952 when it was reorganised into different trading groups, rather than along geographical lines.

Its workforce continued to grow during the 1960s and 1970s and the type of products its factories produced diversified.

It says sales rose in the 1980s, despite the recession.


The GMB says the company's current problems are rooted in the 1960s when the difference between managers' pay and disabled workers' pay began to grow.

It claims that, since 1990, the company has pursued a policy of reducing the number of disabled people working in the factories.

[ image: Disability rights minister Margaret Hodge denies jobs will be lost]
Disability rights minister Margaret Hodge denies jobs will be lost
In recent months, several factories have been earmarked for closure or merger in an effort to make the company more competitive.

The GMB says many of the closures and mergers have been announced without any union consultation.

It believes some of the mergers will actually cost more, because money will have to be spent modernising some factories so that they can take on additional workers.

Phil Davies, GMB national secretary, recently claimed: "The company is really aiming for a reduction in disabled staff."

He claims a corporate plan issued by management in early 1999 is "a conspiracy to fail".

It is said to call for the closure of 17 factories and a reduction in staff.

The GMB says it was not consulted about the plan.

It fears disabled workers are being denied a choice over whether they want to work in the kind of sheltered environment offered by Remploy or in mainstream jobs.

Mr Davies says the Remploy affair "goes to the heart of government policy on welfare to work".

"It is not good having a policy that cuts benefits if there is no real policy on finding decent well-paid work for disabled people."

The GMB is suspicious about promises not to inflict compulsory redundancies.

It says numbers of disabled workers have been reduced in some factories, despite pledges of no compulsory redundancies.

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

UK Contents

Northern Ireland

Relevant Stories

27 Aug 99 | The Company File
Unions move to safeguard disabled jobs

Internet Links



Department for Education and Employment

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Next steps for peace

Blairs' surprise over baby

Bowled over by Lord's

Beef row 'compromise' under fire

Hamilton 'would sell mother'

Industry misses new trains target

From Sport
Quins fightback shocks Cardiff

From Business
Vodafone takeover battle heats up

IRA ceasefire challenge rejected

Thousands celebrate Asian culture

From Sport
Christie could get two-year ban

From Entertainment
Colleagues remember Compo

Mother pleads for baby's return

Toys withdrawn in E.coli health scare

From Health
Nurses role set to expand

Israeli PM's plane in accident

More lottery cash for grassroots

Pro-lifers plan shock launch

Double killer gets life

From Health
Cold 'cure' comes one step closer

From UK Politics
Straw on trial over jury reform

Tatchell calls for rights probe into Mugabe

Ex-spy stays out in the cold

From UK Politics
Blair warns Livingstone

From Health
Smear equipment `misses cancers'

From Entertainment
Boyzone star gets in Christmas spirit

Fake bubbly warning

Murder jury hears dead girl's diary

From UK Politics
Germ warfare fiasco revealed

Blair babe triggers tabloid frenzy

Tourists shot by mistake

A new look for News Online