Memorandum submitted by Remploy Consortium
of Trade Unions
The Remploy Trade Unions have previously expressed
their support for more job opportunities for more disabled people
in the UK and the elimination of discrimination against disabled
people in the workplace and in the labour market as a whole.
We also recognise however that there is much
to do to change attitudes amongst employers as witnessed by the
despicable actions of the AA who have deliberately targeted disabled
people in a manpower reduction programme.
It is clear to us that labour laws or tribunal
guidance needs to be changed to avoid disabled people being targeted
for redundancy; as is the need for government and local government
to change their absence management procedures which penalise people
who have a disability or serious illness through the "trigger"
mechanisms they use.
We support those disability organisations and
trade unions who are pressing for disability leave to be introduced
and we believe that a combination of positive measures such as
disability leave and increased sanctions for those companies who
discriminate against disabled people will lead to fewer people
who have an illness or a disability being thrown on the scrap
heap and having to face a lifetime on benefits.
However, our biggest concern about developments
in the current developments of welfare reform and services relates
to the future of Remploy factories and their capacity to support
more disabled people off of benefits and into work.
It seems clear to us that someone in the DWP
is supporting or promoting the closure/run down of Remploy factories
as we have seen a continual decline in disabled people employed
in factories over the past decade.
We do not accept this is a merely a feature
of market forces as a more imaginative and entrepreneurial spirit
in Remploy with a management that understood markets and marketing
could have changed the situation dramatically especially if they
have the backing and support of the DWP to do this.
There is now a significant opportunity for Remploy
and the DWP to take advantage of changes in European Public Procurement
guidelines and directives which allow public contracts to be awarded
without the traditional process of public tendering being applied.
These changes can if properly followed up ensure that Remploy
(and Local Authority and Voluntary Body) businesses can benefit
in two ways; firstly to increase work loading to increase employment
opportunities and secondly to reduce costs through greater income
It should now become a priority for DWP and
Remploy to follow up these changes and create more jobs and in
the process reduce the individual cost of employing disabled people.
There will be arguments from some people that
Disabled People do not and will not want to work in Remploy factories
and that they would rather work in "open" employment.
We do not accept this argument at all and a recent survey of almost
three thousand disabled people to be published in October will
show that there is significant mistrust about the way disabled
people will be treated in "open" employment.
The same survey will show that almost unanimously
disabled people in Remploy and other supported businesses do not
regard themselves as segregated from society. In fact being able
to work in a more supportive environment with a reasonable wage
and proper trade union representation provides high levels of
economic and social independence.
We would direct the Committee to review the
findings of a Working Paper published by an independent think
tank (The Catalyst Forum) entitled "Mobilising Britain's
missing workforce" as this paper clearly identifies that
there are areas of Great Britain where there are very high percentages
of people in receipt of Incapacity Benefit.
An examination of those areas show that there
is a very clear alignment with the locations where there are Remploy
facilities; for example amongst the highest IB claimant areas
is Merthyr Tydfil in South Wales where 20.5% of adults of working
age were claiming incapacity benefits in August 2004. An examination
of the Districts listed in Table 1 of the paper has an uncanny
relationship to Remploy facilities. Equally the four British regions
(Wales, North East, North West and Scotland) with the greatest
percentage of the working age population claiming incapacity benefit
are all Regions with a significant Remploy presence.
This supports our view that properly managed
and loaded with work Remploy factories can play a bigger role
in persuading disabled people claiming incapacity benefit back
The DWP needs to recognise that people who have
been away from the workplace for many years and who arrived in
that position because of uncaring and inconsiderate employers
will not be easily persuaded to return to work in the "open"
labour market for fear of the same experiences happening again.
Remploy has reasonable terms and conditions
negotiated by this Consortium and can provide a more empathetic
environment for people returning to work or for those experiencing
work for the first time and it is our strong contention that Remploy
factories should be built up not run down to support the Government's
aims in reducing the number of Incapacity Benefit Claimants.
We are looking for DWP officials and Remploy
management (for who DWP have a responsibility for) to declare
themselves in favour of this strategy and to demonstrate their
support by directing national government and local government
contracts toward expanding supported workplaces. We believe that
this could be done quickly and effectively if there is a real
will to achieve this.
We do not argue that this approach should be
taken at the expense of other routes to work in fact we support
the moves through Remploy Interwork and New Deal for Disabled
People but equally we do not believe that merely shifting resources
from factory based employment (which we accept may not all be
manufacturing) to the other routes is right either.
The Remploy trade unions believe that Government
needs to invest in a range of routes to work and to accept that
employment in a Remploy factory is a legitimate working environment
for those who choose this route.
We support choice. That choice must include
work in Remploy factories.
We want to see more disabled people in work.
That means expanding, not running down or closing, Remploy factories
as an important option for disabled people.
The removal, run down or discarding of Remploy
factories will remove a significant element of choice for a group
of people wary of returning to work and will make the process
of reducing the number of benefit claimants much more difficult
and time consuming as well as offering no viable route to work
for those who need more support.
30 September 2005