WORKERS at Ashington’s Remploy factory are set to go ahead with a strike planned for today despite last week’s announcement that it could close as soon as next month.
Ashington’s was one of 36 Remploy factories – also including one at nearby Benton in North Tyneside – earmarked for closure in March, and the government confirmed last week that 27 of them will be shut between August and December. Nine others elsewhere in the country will be subject to further consultation.
Mr Lavery, set to join staff on the picket line at the Jubilee Industrial Estate factory today, said: “I’ve been in full support of the Remploy workers since the initial announcement.
“It’s an absolute disgrace at a time when the economy is in a double-dip recession.
“Unemployment is at a 16-year high and that the government can even suggest that closing Remploy is in the best interest of disabled people defies belief.
“I have visited the factories in Ashington and Newcastle, and I will be on the picket line at Ashington on Thursday. It’s an appalling decision.”
General, Municipal, Boilermakers union national secretary Phil Davies said: “To close these factories that employ disabled people in the present economic climate is a sentence to life of unemployment and poverty.
“The strikes will go ahead on July 19 and 26 as planned and should be a rallying point, giving each local community the opportunity to stand behind these disabled workers who will be facing the scrapheap.”
Following last week’s announcement in the House of Commons, Mr Lavery told work and pensions minister Maria Miller: “Thousands of disabled people will be heading home tonight certain of one thing, and that is a lifetime of unemployment.
“What advice would the minister give to those individuals and their families with regard to employment in future?
“Is she not absolutely ashamed that this despicable, cruel act has happened on her watch?”
The Ashington factory employs 28 staff, 27 of them disabled.
n Ian Lavery’s column is on Page 39.