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."
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?
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
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.