A strike by disabled workers in protest at plans to close their factories was “solidly” supported today, with strong backing from members of the public, unions said.
Thousands of staff at 54 Remploy factories across Britain staged the first of two 24-hour walkouts as part of a campaign to keep the sites open.
Half the factories will close by the end of the year, while others face an uncertain future or closure next year under Government plans.
Ministers have argued that the factories are loss-making, and money would be better spent helping individuals find jobs elsewhere.
Unite national officer Sally Kosky said: "We have received reports from across the country that the strike is solid and is receiving massive support from the public, as well as from disability groups and other trade unions.
"This sends the strongest possible message to Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith that the Government needs to have a drastic rethink on its policy of closing down and selling off the Remploy factories.
"The first wave of factory closures by the end of the year will see about 1,700 disabled workers thrown on to the dole queue, at a time when those out of work for more than two years is at its worst since 1997."
GMB official Phil Davies said: "The Government's actions smack of a callousness that makes a sham of its 'we are all in this together' mantra. The public is very angry at the Government's behaviour."
Unions called on ministers to follow the example of the Welsh Government which has pledged £2.4 million a year for up to four years for employers who give jobs to Remploy workers when the factories in Wales close.
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: "We're disappointed that the unions are taking strike action which will do nothing to secure the future jobs of Remploy staff.
"The Government would encourage the trade unions to fully engage with Remploy during the consultation process to provide the best possible support and success for disabled staff who may leave the company."
A second strike will be held next Thursday.