Tell it to Remploy

[Tuesday]

Why bother blogging when the Morning Star writes such wonderful editorials?

Tell it to Remploy
(Tuesday 11 September 2007)

PROBABLY the most predictable speech at recent TUC gatherings has been that given by fat-cat-in-chief the director-general of the Confederation of British Industry and the present incumbent, former Financial Times editor Richard Lambert, made no exception.

He dished out a speech of the most mind-boggling arrogance, warning that raising taxes to slash the income of the super-rich would be “disastrous” for the UK economy.

He followed that up with an absolute paean of praise for, of all things, globalisation, saying that “to push back against the forces of globalisation… would have serious consequences for growth and employment.

“It would,” he claimed, “cut the UK off from the benefits of open markets and free trade, and both capital and talent would drain out of our economy.”

More clearly than anything else at TUC Congress, this speech illustrated the growing gap between the haves and the have-nots in today’s Britain. If we needed to be shown the irreconcilable differences between capital and labour, Mr Lambert certainly obliged.

His contribution to the Congress was made all the more pointed when delegates came to discuss the plight of several thousand Remploy workers who are about to lose their jobs, despite a barrage of obfuscation from everyone from Work and Pensions Secretary Peter Hain to the managers of Remploy.

If Mr Lambert asked the disabled Remploy workers about globalisation and the free market and they would give him a very dusty answer indeed, since the outsourcing of government contracts abroad has cost them their jobs, however much Remploy managers try to dress up their cutbacks as a “change in direction” for disabled people.

And if he had bothered to ask them what they thought of the super-rich getting even wealthier on the backs of working people, the answers might not be printable.

One of the most distressing things about the outrage that is being perpetrated on these disabled workers is that it is being done by Remploy’s managers with the overt collusion of people at the very highest levels of this new Labour government.

GMB organiser Phil Davies demonstrated this graphically when he emptied a black plastic bin bag of redundancy quotes onto the platform at Congress, quotes that Mr Hain had sworn to the union, only the week before, would not be issued.

Both government and company management have behaved disgracefully during this episode and they have been joined by the six major charities who, for reasons best known to themselves, have publicly backed the butchering of Remploy.

It must be clear even to the dimmest luminaries in this seedy government that disabled workers, more than most, need a wider, not narrower, range of employment options and to limit them even further is an act of criminal irresponsibility that almost beggars belief.

The trade union movement must use all its influence to insist that this crazy act of industrial sabotage is terminated immediately and the best way to do that is to insist that the eminently reasonable demand by the unions, that a tiny percentage of government procurement contracts be directed the company’s way, must be accepted and acted on by Mr Hain and his minions. If they claim to care about people with disabilities, the government can easily prove it by reversing its dismal policy.

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