On the 19th July around 60 workers from Leeds Remploy took strike action to fight against closure of their workplaces due to government cuts, targeted firstly at the young, the disabled and the elderly.
Andy Smith – Leeds North West Socialist Party
Members of the Socialist Party were greeted warmly in Leeds by around over 50 Remploy workers and supporters picketing the factory. The strike has been called as part of a continuous national campaign to fight government cuts to further jobs and will continue with a further day of action next Thursday. Though the mood on the picket suggested that unless there is success between now and then, that will not be the end of the action.
The closure and strategy towards further closure of Remploy factories shows this government of callous millionaires for the cold hearted conservatives we already knew them to be, but it is still hard to imagine a government through all their callousness, stupid enough to carry out this particular cut. The Remploy factories are involved in various industrial tasks and compete in a marketplace where due to the fact that Remploy workers are disabled, their efficiency and the nature of British industry, pay and conditions, suggest that a loss is being made at the factories, which is currently underwritten by the government.
The government have suggested that the Remploy workers should not have this subsidy as no-one else does and even go as far as suggesting that the paralympians act as a marker of what every disabled person should be able to do. So, as soon as there is a shot-putting industry or a professional wheelchair basketball league, they have nothing to worry about. The government also suggest that segregational workplaces are not helpful and everyone should be subject to the same market pressure to achieve work and that the free market will provide.
Realistically, how are thousands of disabled people currently employed by Remploy going to compete with the one million youth currently unemployed, the further millions underemployed or employed on zero hour contracts, the thousands of workers still on the increasingly shambolic workfare program, the public sector workers who have lost their jobs or any of the other people who find themselves unemployed and facing savage attacks on their lives? The answer sadly is, that they just don’t care, they just want to reduce wages, terms and conditions to the bottom line.
I don’t think I have ever written a clearer example of the requirement for a socialist transformation of society. As Marx put it, socialism would mean a world based on the idea of “From each according to their ability, to each according to their need”. The free market cruelty that has resulted in these cuts needs to be stopped and there is very little Miliband, Giddens or any other Blairite can to do challenge this, other than murmur ashamedly, ‘we would do the same’.
The further ineptitude of this government has failed to consider that actually, when the workers from these factories are thrown into the blackhole of unemployment, they will qualify for supplementary benefits, such as DLA (until it is reformed and reduced next year, another callous cut to consider), housing, carers, income support and as a result of this, NHS costs are likely to increase as these workplaces have dramatically increased the mental wellbeing of people formerly unable to work. The supplement the government currently pays, pales into insignificance compared to the additional cost to the state, that would result of each of these workers being forced back into the welfare system. Though I doubt they are considering that as they seem determined to destroy welfare and with it, any semblance of decency, community and caring this country has left.
The GMB officials were out in force with their workers and the local shop stewards were in fine spirits and even provided a brazier to complete the image of a properly militant picket line and the constant cry of vuvuzela’s showed the spirit and determination of the workers to keep their factory open. With discussion of further action and the need for escalation of action, this struggle will continue with the support of the Socialist Party. Other unions are also considering showing their support next Thursday at the Cottingley site. I would suggest everyone do the same. You will be met warmly and with open arms.