Remploy worker carries Olympic torch ahead of strike action opposing factory closures
Today Tony Collins, an athlete who has represented his country around the world, proudly carried the Olympic torch through Rayleigh in Essex.
But in three weeks’ time, on the eve of the Games’ opening ceremony, Mr Collins, will not be celebrating. He will be on strike in protest against Government plans to close 54 specialist factories, making him and hundreds of other disabled people redundant.
The Government set out its intention to close or sell off all of the country’s Remploy factories in March. The factories are subsidised specialist employers of disabled people and provide 1,700 jobs.
Four months since the Government decision, Remploy workers all over the country fear that redundancy, at a time when 2.61 million people are out of work, will mean never working again. This week Remploy workers voted overwhelmingly to go on strike on two dates this month, the second falling on 26 July, the day before the Olympics begin.
Mr Collins, 34, a member of the Great Britain Learning Disabled Athletics Squad, works at the Remploy factory in Barking, recycling computers for resale. He told The Independent that he was “angry and upset” to at the threat to his livelihood and pledged to join his striking colleagues later this month.
The Department for Work and Pensions has condemned the strike. In May, Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, was labelled a “bully” by Remploy workers after criticising staff at the factories for “not doing any work…just making cups of coffee.”
Mr Collins’ mother Kathy, said that her son and many of his colleagues feared discrimination from potential employers and co-workers if they were forced to enter the mainstream job market.
“Tony is ready and keen to work,” she said. “In 13 years at Remploy he has never once been late, getting up at 5.00am to make it on time. But he is petrified of working in mainstream employment.”
The Government has ring-fenced the £320 million disability employment budget but believes that money spent subsidising Remploy employees would be more effectively spent supporting disabled people into mainstream employment.
“It costs £25,000 per year to support each disabled person working in a Remploy factory,” a DWP spokesman said. “At the same time the average Access to Work award to support a disabled person in a mainstream employment is only £2,900.”
The Government argues that the Remploy factories provide “segregated employment” and the decision to close the factories followed advice from the charity Disability Rights UK.
However, Ms Collins said that the Government was taking choice away from disabled people.
“The Government says that these people have the right to work in mainstream employment. Of course they do, but they also have the right to choose whether they want to work in mainstream or sheltered employment,” she said. “Remploy is not just a workplace for my son, it is like a refuge. What the Government are doing is appalling. It is a form of bullying.”
- 1 Drugs Live cannabis trial: Hash is less harmful than any other drug, expert claims
- 2 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 3 Turkish Airlines flight TK 726 crash-lands on Nepal runway in dense fog
- 4 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
- 5 The 'sex selfie stick' lets you FaceTime the inside of a vagina
Turkish Airlines flight TK 726 crash-lands on Nepal runway in dense fog
George Clooney and Amal fail to get special treatment at New York restaurant
Cindy Crawford 'un-PhotoShopped' viral Marie Claire image was doctored, photographer claims
'A girl is more responsible for rape than a boy': The statement that shocked the world... except India
The 'sex selfie stick' lets you FaceTime the inside of a vagina
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Ukraine crisis: Top Chinese diplomat backs Putin and says West should 'abandon zero-sum mentality'
Boris Nemtsov shot dead: Outspoken Putin critic who had expressed fears for his life is killed near the Kremlin
£15000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Waterlooville based softwa...
Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Developer (C#, VB & ASP.Net, SQL Server, TSQL) - Pe...
£16000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Associate Sales Consultant i...
£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Well established and expanding ...