Two years ago I visited one of the Remploy factories in my Branch (I was Branch Secretary of 5 factories within the M25). This site was closing down; and, as you can imagine feelings were running high. We convened a meeting in the canteen to which some 50 odd people turned up; most were shop floor workers, Unite members, a few were supervisory staff, also Unite members.
The shop steward opened the meeting and was almost immediately shouted down by a couple of angry workers (one a member the other not). They, in their frustration, began using that time honoured device of ‘what was the union doing?’, ‘why didn’t you stop the closure?’ and ‘you’ve sold us out!’
The reason I came to the meeting was in order to deflect some of this flak from the shop steward, whose conduct during the ‘Remploy Crusade’ was beyond reproach.
When the gathering quietened down I spoke to the meeting. Looking around the room I saw around 8 out of the 50 or so activists that had tried to move heaven and earth to keep the site open. They, myself and the shop steward had criss-crossed the UK attending demos and marches in support of Remploy.
I identified the people who had done the business; some of whom had become ill as a result. Then I looked to those that accused and blamed the union for their misfortune and asked why they hadn’t come out in strength. Why they hadn’t attended Parliament when we called for them. Why they didn’t help to swell the crowds in Cardiff, Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester, Stirling, Poole, Newcastle or London.
Funny how one minute we’re selling our members out; then on reflection they come to realise they too had a responsibility for their own futures.