Sunday, 22 April 2012

Remploy Workers Protest Outside Parliament

A couple of hundred Remploy workers and supporters marched from Caxton Hall in Westminster to a rally in Old Palace Yard opposite the Houses of Parliament. Remploy workers including Julie Haynes and Ray Ludford spoke passionately on the importance of retaining Remploy factories and the issue of choice for disabled Workers.

Gail Cartmail, a Unite Assistant General Secretary, pledged the union's full support in the fight to keep the factories open. Gail stated: “Our members feel outrage that the government could take jobs from disabled people in this current climate. How are they expected to find work when there are 2.65 million people in the queue in front of them?"

Seán McGovern speaking to rally on 20th April 2012

Finally, Seán McGovern, Disability Delegate to the Unite Executive Council, Remploy Branch Secretary and ex-Remploy worker, spoke. Seán reminded the rally that a 24-hour vigil held but a few yards along the road stopped a planned closure of Remploy factories back in February 2000; and that we must use all the resources we had to ensure we stop today's proposed closures.

Save Remploy Public Meeting - 26 April 2012

Dear Comrade

Remploy is proposing to close 36 of its factories before the summer is over. These closures will include all three remaining sites in London. Since the last round of closures, 4-years ago, some 80-85% of those made redundant are still out of work.

The hundreds of Disabled Remploy factory workers who find themselves jobless come August, if the closures go ahead, will find it even more difficult to find work than it was in 2008. Most fear long periods of unemployment.

We must do our best to help our Remploy Comrades to keep their plants open.

On Thursday 26th March at 6.30 pm the Remploy Unions in London are holding a 'Save Remploy' public meeting. This will be a meeting with a slight difference in that the top table will be filled with Remploy workers present and past. They will tell you, the audience, their stories. How working in Remploy gives them self-esteem and a sense of being part of a greater work community.

Comrade, please come along to Faraday House, 48-51 Old Gloucester Street, Holborn, London, WC1N 3AE - it's opposite Unite the Union's office car park.

In the struggle

Seán McGovern

Secretary of Unite's L&E 1971 Remploy Branch

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Remploy Co-Ops?

A reader in today's on-line Guardian asks:

"Why not let some of the facotry workers rent or buy the empty factories and run them themselves sort of like a co-operative? That way they get rid of their factories but the workers can keep their jobs."

Sayce does actually suggest both co-ops and social enterprises as possible solutions once Remploy factories lose their government subsidies. Indeed, the Remploy York factory, before its closure around 4-years ago produced chemical warfare clothing for the MOD, employed over 50 disabled people.

Following the closure some determined trade unionists got together and formed the York Disabled Workers' Co-Operative in 2010. The co-op produces quality garden furniture. However, unlike its predecessor, the Remploy factory which had a workforce of 54, the co-op only employs five people.
Phil Davies with the deed signed at the GMB union office
establishing the legality of York Disabled Workers Co-operative Ltd
We should salute the co-op; and wish it well. However, such ventures while they show both enterprise and initiative will not afford the overwhelming majority of Remploy workers who are facing redundancy a life-line. In fact even if there was the know-how, readiness and entrepreneurial drive amongst the 1700 workers affected by these closures, are local economies robust enough at the moment to sustain another 300-400 new co-ops or social enterprises?

The UK's economy is floating in the doldrums; quarter by quarter only narrowly escaping being officially declared back in recession. Our banking system has hardly covered itself in glory since we bailed them out, thus creating the mess we now find ourselves in. Unless banks are willing to  lend to ventures such as co-ops and social enterprises, chances of success are slim.

Even if our banks had the decency to realise it's our, the public's, money that they have stuffed in their vaults, would they take the risk of funding disabled peoples' enterprises especially since the government shows no confidence in disabled workers when it pulls their subsidy.    

Wednesday, 18 April 2012


THURSDAY 26TH APRIL 6.30 - 8.30 PM
48-51 Old Gloucester Street
London, WC1N 3AE
(Opposite Unite's Holborn Office car park)

As a result of the damning Sayce Report on funding for disabled workers last year Remploy has announced the closure of 36 of its 54 factories. The first closures are imminent; and the remaining 18 will be forced to shut by the end of 2013 if they cannot reduce the subsidy for per disabled factory worker.





Join us in the fight to save Remploy

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Be Careful Where You Store Petrol

Andrew Neil on Facebook today: "Heavy rain so thought it prudent to fill up bath to fend off supposed drought. But bath still brimming with petrol for supposed strike."

Then Andrew, no better time to lie back in your bath for a long leisurely soak. Oh, and why not treat yourself to that Habana cigar you've been saving for a rainy day?

I had my suspicions about Francis Maud's advice on petrol storage!

Monday, 16 April 2012

Labour Must Distance Themselves from Neo-Liberal Policies

Another of the great myths was that bankers and financiers were awarded fantastically high salaries and massive amounts in bonuses because they were risk takers.

Well of course that myth was well and truly dispelled when in 2008 we watched as bank after bank came cap-in-hand to governments around the world begging to be bailed-out.

This socialisation of debt while keeping profit private should have brought a greater balance to the obscene rewards those at the top of the finance sector were giving themselves. Sadly, and I blame the Left politically for missing their opportunity to deliver the coup de grace against neo-liberal capitalism, we allowed these vultures to carry on almost as if nothing wrong. Now we're beset by their friends in Parliament; and of course they're picking away at the rest of the corpse created by their friends in high finance.

It would be, at least, a partial victory if Labour could realise that the only way out of this economic quagmire created by casino bankers and tax cheats is to move away from the failed policies of the neo-libs.

Hopefully, this realisation will come sooner rather than later to allow Labour to set out a stall which doesn't sell the same worn-out ideas of the Tories in slightly more acceptable packaging.  

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Gripes and Sour Grapes Over a Football Game

On Chelsea's spectacular win over Tottenham today, Jason on Facebook thinks that "they dont deserve to go through tonight in my eyes just for the dispicable actions tonight let alone the totally unfair game tonight!! well pisses me off that chelsea was fowling tottenham all over the place and the ref did nothing"

Chelsea footballers holding a silence for the dead of Hillsborough
at today's FA Cup semi-final against Tottenham at Wembley

Those Chelsea fans that ignored the request for a few moments silence are despicable. Sadly, such things happen among groups within a fan base; and there is little the club can do. I'm sure if the club could identify the idiots who ignored the call for silence they would deal with them harshly.

As for Chelsea not deserving to win; come on, the score speaks for itself. Spurs received three yellow cards to Chelsea's two; both sides recorded eight fouls apiece. I watched the game, and it wasn't a particularly dirty match. Bellyaching about the ref letting fouls go by for one side over the other is the age old sour grapes of the loser.

In the end, whether the second Chelsea goal was a goal or not, Chelsea won by a large margin. Doubtlessly Tottenham have had dubious decisions go their way in the past; and I'm sure in the future they'll earn a goal or a penalty via a dodgy ref's decision; but hey, that's part of the flow and go of the game. I seem to recall England being given a similar decision some years ago; after which they went on to win the game and the World Cup, do you regard them as unworthy winners too, Jason?

"Charity is a cold grey loveless thing"

The recent charity tax law once again holds these practices up to the naked light of public opinion. Richard Murphy, the excellent author of the Tax Research UK Blog appositely quotes Clement Atlee's “Charity is a cold grey loveless thing. If a rich man wants to help the poor, he should pay his taxes gladly, not dole out money at a whim.”

Clem Atlee Post War PM who Brought in the Welfare State and NHS
at a Time when the UK Was in Far Greater Debt Than Today

My sentiments entirely. I recently applied to Motability (a charitable organisation) for financial assistance with a wheelchair hoist for my car (my new chair is heavier than the previous and my PAs are having problems lifting and storing it in the back of the car).

A couple of weeks later I received a telephone call informing me that my application was not successful. When I queried this outcome I was told there was nothing I could do, the decision is final.

I could understand it if I was earning a massive salary (I’m a part-time worker on tax credits); or if I’d bundles of savings (I’ve a couple of thousand saved).

Once again the actions of a charity proving that without full and open accountability these organisations pick and chose worthy recipients of their largesse. Unlike government benefits and schemes that have a properly set down criteria for entitlement and appeals procedures, Motability does not. 

Steve Collins: A Remploy Worker's Testimony to Closures

Whilst making a YouTube video of an interview  with the Sunday Express; an interview that centred on the closures of Remploy factories, Steve Collins did what I've witnessed other Remploy workers and their families do over the years. He shed tears. These tears are a reflection of the very real fears he expresses when talking about his future employment opportunities if Remploy folds. 

Some months before the first round of Remploy closures, almost 5-years ago, I witnessed one of the most moving testimonies of just how frightening and stark it is for a disabled person to be told that their factory is closing; and they'd be without of a job.

A severely disabled worker from the, then, Brixton factory stood up, with great effort and dignity, at a meeting in one of the House of Commons committee rooms and shared with the congregation of Remploy workers, union officials and MPs her story.

Shelia (not her real name) told us that she felt more a part of society by going into work and contributing her share. For years she was unemployed, and in those years felt as though she wasn't participating fully to the community in which she lived.

She went on to express the sense of comradeship and family the workplace offered. Work, she said, also gave her independence, affording her social integration. Work not only gave shape and routine to Sheila's life, it also gave her a decent standard of life; whereas, living on benefits would in effect make her a prisoner in her flat, where she lived alone.

She finished by looking at the MPs and saying that if she lost her job at Remploy it would create a big hole in her life. Sheila knew, as most of the other Remploy workers in those grand settings of Westminster, that when the doors of their factories closed they would never again have that feeling of worth that working gives so many; that they would remain unemployed; and slide further and deeper into poverty.

To this day I still believe this was the most passionate and heartfelt speech I've ever heard (and I'm a veteran of dozens of conferences). A speech that not only reached out to people's hearts, but one which, if stripped back, appealed to their sense of what was just plain right. There was not a dry eye in that room on that day, including myself.

Finally, the fact that traditionally the Express and sister paper the Sunday Express have espoused right, and sometimes, far right attitudes politically and socially really brings home just how far the nasty party has lurched to the right.

Thank you Steve Collins for saying what thousands of Remploy workers, past and present, feel. You displayed more dignity in the short YouTube video that Cameron or his ilk could summon up in a lifetime. I, along people like Steve, my Remploy Branch, and other trade union and disability activists will do our best to make sure the factories remain open and jobs secured.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

What Happened to Voltaire?

On Facebook, Andrew Neil Asserts: "The idea gay people can be, even need to be, "cured" repulsive. But why ban ads saying so? What happened to Voltaire?"

My response is: ‎"What happened to Voltaire?" he died. 

Whatever happened to with free speech comes responsibility? It comes down to the crying fire in a crowded theatre argument. Hate crime abounds; why give the fools who perpetrate such crimes further licence?

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

The Last Of The Billingsgate Fish Porters

The Last Of The Billingsgate Fish Porters
A way of life
Scratching a living
Snatched away
By unforgiving
Faceless men,
Who, with
The swipe of a pen
Consign humanity
Into profit
And loss
As though
Just useless
Human dross.

Vulcans and Turkeys

”Even Tory ex-minister John Redwood now says the tax debate is “crowding out the more important matters of what Ken or Boris would do to the Council Tax, the policing, and the transport of London,”

Yes, but isn’t that a bit like a turkey, in early December, stating that the chestnut stuffing, cranberry sauce and sprouts debate is “crowding out more important Christmas matters such as the Nativity, carol singing and peace and goodwill to all men”?

Turkey going about his business discussing the Nativity,
carol singing and peace and goodwill to all men
If only ANYONE but this arsewipe had made the observation...
Redwood creating Vulcan tax loops

Monday, 9 April 2012

Poverty's When...

Poverty's When...
Poverty's when the soul's unfed
Poverty's when love's left for dead
Poverty's when our dreams are drowned
Poverty's when no hope can be found
Poverty's when the rich grow fatter
Poverty's when the poor don't matter. 

Saturday, 7 April 2012



Date: Friday 20th April 2012
Time: Assemble Midday
Place: Outside the Department of Work and
Pensions, Tothill Street, London, SW1H 9NA
March to Old Palace Yard, Westminster,
London, SW1P 3JY for rally with speakers

On 7th March Remploy announced its intention to close all of its factories with the potential compulsory redundancy of 1,752 mostly disabled workers. The joint Unions are committed to fighting to save the Remploy factories and our members’ jobs. We must show the strength of feeling that taking jobs from disabled people should not be tolerated in a civilised society. It will not improve the country’s financial situation – it may well make it worse.

Join us in the fight to save Remploy

Doesn't it Make You Feel Safe in God?

Vegetarians, those low-down-non-red-meat-eating-non-animal-slaughtering-sandal-knitting-pinko-panty-waist-commie-loving-heathens! I feel a reeeeevivalist meeting coming on! The Lord is calling on me to launder my best bed linen (plenty of starch to get the pointy-hat a-standing upright). Yeeehaw, we're gonna have us some cross burning! LOL

The Windmill Inn

I attended St Gerard's School, Clapham Common South Side, from 1968-73. As I recall some of my most productive hours back then were spent in the public bar of the Windmill Inn. Ah, far happier less complicated times.

The Windmill stood on Clapham Common, set back slightly from the main road, directly opposite the front of our school; and on hot summer's days many is the time my attention was drawn from 'Harry' Horn's waffle about the importance of chess and Dickens; or Jim Smith's over-enthusiastic take on some battle or other in this country's distance bloody past, and through the classroom windows across the A3 past a clump of trees to the frontage of the pub. So tantalisingly near; yet so unattainably distant.

The Windmill Inn Clapham Common

Towards the end of the Fifth Year a few of us in the class, having already abandoned our school uniforms, used to pop into the bar at lunchtimes. Most of us were pub users anyway, had been for a while.

Funny really, just how quick we made that transition from snotty nosed school boys to young urbane men of the world. Not so very long before the pub had served another purpose for. When fractiousness exploded amongst us boys, the chilling words would be intoned: “Right, behind the Windmill after school, you’re dead”. 

Oh, the expectations of those words. Two young Achilles’ pitting their martial prowess in hand to hand fighting? No. More like two scared lads. By the end of the school day they were wondering whether a note from their mums might excuse them from the imminent ritual. No chance. The attendant baying mob had paid to see blood; and blood they’d get.

Pushed together the crestfallen warriors would trade a few unimpressive slaps. One would then escalate events by putting the other in a neck-lock. Within seconds they’d be rolling around on the ground. This was the cue for crowd participation and they started to kick the remaining dignity from the fallen heroes. 

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Nothing About Us Without Us!

Christ, am I pissed off! A little while back this evening I received a call from a friend; and we fell into discussing things that I'd let slip due to a recent illness. On 19th March I was invited to a meeting, which due to a prior engagement I was unable to attend, held by a number of Left Movement groups to discuss the situation at Remploy. These groups included DPAC and Right to Work.

From Tuesday until yesterday, Sunday, I was ill; so had no opportunity to talk to people, although from time to time I did check my emails. There were a few things coming up which I made a note of, especially the stuff occurring in the evenings, as they'd not interfere with work.

So, a little way into our chat my friend tells me that a meeting to discuss the Remploy factory closures had been agreed and would take place on 20th April at ULU. Agreed by whom? I asked, curious since I am the Secretary of Unite's L&E 1971 Remploy Branch, the largest existing Branch in London. My friend couldn't answer exactly. Was it RL or LW, I queried.

He did tell me that John McDonnell and Mark Sirwotka were to be present; but was not sure who exactly the organisers were.

As a Branch Secretary of long standing, 15-years, I've been involved in hundreds of meetings, actions, demos, pickets and rallies involving Remploy. Back in February 2000 I took part in a 24-hour vigil outside Parliament, at which I nearly froze to death while escaping arrest by inches.

In 2006 we marched on the mighty Emirates Stadium in defence of the Holloway factory; and we got decent football loving Gooners behind our cause. The company capitulated and gave us a new factory a couple of miles away in Green Lanes near to Finsbury Park.

Through 2007 and into 2008 along with other disabled Remploy Comrades I criss-crossed the UK attending demos, rallies and picket lines in Wales, Scotland and England. Despite the tears and looks of despair on the faces of those losing their jobs, we fought on; because we knew our cause was right.

Sadly, and along ideological lines, a Labour government betrayed thousands of disabled workers and cruelly closed their factories. It is hard to fully capture in words the sense of hopelessness I saw on the faces of decent workers who knew once they clocked out that last time in London, Liverpool, Glasgow, Cardiff, or any of the other twenty-odd sites around the country; that this would be their last experience of waged employment.

Standing in front of forty-some people at the Brixton site was one of the hardest things I've ever experienced. The stewards in the factory had asked me to come to a meeting as they were getting a lot of grief from the membership, and non-members too. My role was to listen to the members, and to defend the stewards.

Alas, the meeting was acrimonious. People were, very naturally, upset that they would soon be unemployed. They were, as to be expected, concerned for their futures.

So, for a little while I allowed people to vent their anger, and fears. We were in a lose lose situation; and I was certainly not going to inflame the situation with insensitivities.

However, after the first flush of pass the blame, one of our members shouted "Where were the unions. What did you do to stop the closure?" At this point I became a wee bit pissed off. The man who posed the question was well known for stirring things up in the workplace; yet conspicuous by his absence at every single event we had arranged; whether marching on the Emirates; visiting Parliament; or even coming out on a Saturday morning to do some leafleting in Brixton High Street.

"Where were you 'X'?" I replied. "You're part of the union. So are you; and you are too; and you as well" I pointed out to some of the others who had been invisible during the campaign - incidentally, these were people who had fairly good physical and mental capacity.

Then I started to name people who had poured their hearts and souls into the campaign. These were the people who should be thanked I explained. Instead, you pour blame upon them. At this point people began to applaud; and I noticed members clapping the stewards and chief activists on the back; while others sheepishly extended a hand for shaking.

We all from time to time need to let off steam. Sometimes it's a bit too scalding; that's when the coolness of a friendly and understanding touch on the shoulder or shake of the hand is worth a million smiles. People walked away from that meeting on that day, still sad; but with a feeling of a happiness carried out.

Our Branch has been active for over 16-years and during that time we've contributed in both money and solidarity to hundreds of causes from making a small contribution to the fire-fighters who laid down their lives the day the Twin Towers collapsed to requests for support and solidarity to industrial actions up and down the land, and beyond. And, if we last another 16 we'll carry on the tradition.

Members of the L&E 1971 Remploy Branch are appreciative of any help and support given to them by sister organisations within the Movement. This extends to DPAC and Right to Work who recently invited us to a meeting to discuss ways to counter the Remploy factory closures, three of which are in London. Thank you.

Most of you on the left will be familiar with the old disability saying "Nothing about us without us". This is how the 1971 Branch feels at the moment. Events and meetings are being arranged with no notification to either the Chair or Secretary of the Branch - I learned of a 'Fight Remploy Closures Meeting' from a Comrade this evening. When pressed for some answers to questions, I thought were quite reasonable given the circumstances, he could not tell me who had booked the meeting; who had sent out invitations to speakers; or indeed whether anyone from Remploy had a coordinating role in the event.

With a bit of digging I found the meeting on Google - just a date (which happened to be wrong!) and a venue were sufficient clues to tracking down the info. Looks like a good gig. John McDonnell, Lez Woodward, Gail Cartmail amongst the speakers; but nobody from Remploy in London - as though we don't count. More digging found that DPAC was also holding an event in Remploy's name on 18th April. On top of all this the Trade Unions have organised a march and rally from the DWP in Tothill Street to Old Palace Yard in Westminster at noon on Friday 20th April.

Have since spoken to people involved in the meeting. Maybe this will have a reasonable outcome.