Hectic day yesterday, 9th June. Late on Wednesday evening, I received news that Liz Sayce's review of 'Disability employment support fit for the future' was being launched at lunchtime the following day. Lez Woodward, Remploy convenor, asked if I could mobilise the 'troops' and come along to take part in a protest outside the building, the Resource Centre, in Holloway Road.
Now I had a problem. The following day I was due at the Unite regional office for an 11 am committee meeting and had to be back in Brixton by 2 pm for another meeting.
Anyway, I managed to conduct the committee business in quick time and arrived at the Resource Centre in Holloway Road by around 12.35 pm. We spotted the contingent from about 50 meters away, Big Lez being standing out, his great moustachioed head standing out.
When I finally joined the contingent we were about a dozen. Spotting someone with a copy of review I found out I could get a copy from the first floor. After waltzing in and securing a copy of Sayce's report I realised that there was no security inside and suggested we go in and participate.
We were met at the door by one of the centre's employees who rather half-heartedly asked us if we were on the 'invited' list. Telling him I was from the TUC General Council, the Chair of the TUC's Disability Committee, the man looked seriously impressed and let us in.
The review launch was taking place on the first floor in a large conference rom. By the time we arrived the room was pretty full, mainly occupied by suits, professional non-disabled types from business and the voluntary sector.
Our small crew looked decidedly out of place - we were definitely the spectres at the feast.
Maria Miller, Tory Minister for Disabled People, opened proceedings to the accompaniment of some mild heckling from Lez. Her speech was a variation on this regime's misplaced ideology. The need to force disabled people into jobs. As usual she omitted to tell us where these jobs were. As is her wont she failed to give us any assurances that employers would be forced to obey the law and employ disabled people.
Unfortunately, I had to leave just as Liz Sayce opened her justification of her review. On the way out I saw a couple of police officers making their way to the conference. Once outside I hung around for a short while; but, nothing occurred, none of our people was frogmarched out by the Old Bill - I later found out that there was no problem.
From what I've read of the review thus far things look very glum for Remploy workers. Sayce is basically calling for the closure of Remploy factories. The report cites a £63m loss across the factories as unsustainable. There is little detail as to how they arrive at this figure. There is little or no mention of the failures of upper management to properly take advantage of opportunities such as public procured contracts.