Ex-Remploy boss hits back at claims he’s ‘making a pretty profit’ from disabled people’s misery

A Wigan company has hit back at claims it is ‘making a pretty profit’ from disabled people’s misfortune in the wake of the notorious Remploy closures.

Remploy has recently been back in the news as it was announced earlier this month that it has been sold to private US welfare provider Maximus.

The American company, which has subsidiaries all over the world, will now own 70% of Remploy and is set to take over in April.

In March 2012, the government-run body, which had directly employed disabled people in specialised factories since 1964, announced it was to shut down 36 of  its 54 factories.

Just 10 days later a group of senior managers began acquiring the outgoing company’s successful scanning assets and formed the Wigan-based company, ‘Red Rock’.

The company’s website describes having taken the company ‘from loss making to a position of sustainability’, winning projects which they would otherwise have been unable to secure.

However, some former employees have expressed their frustration about the situation that followed.

Tim*, a former factory worker, told MM: “A group of managers from different parts of the company kept on half a dozen people and are now making a pretty penny with the old things we used to do.

“They [only] kept on the less severely disabled people, the ones who were more experienced and could cope.”

Mancunian Matters spoke to Phil Hubbard, managing director of Red Rock, who claimed that it is the company’s policy to only employ disabled people who do not have severe learning disabilities.

He also denied claims that the company would only pay minimum wage to current workers.

He told MM:  “Since we started in November 2012 we have always paid over the minimum wage to all employees.

“We have budgeted and are planning a 2% wage increase this year in April if business allows.

“We started on nothing in Nov. 2012. We bought everything at the market rate. It was done with the best intentions.

“I was one of those people [facing redundancy in 2012]. But I think it was proven that we can run a business that can be commercially viable and at the same time help the community.”

Regardless of the Red Rock chapter in the post-Remploy history, for those not fortunate enough to be redeployed elsewhere, the fate of some of the former staff at Wigan and further afield remains bleak two years later.

New national figures released this January show that nearly half – 733  of the 1500 made redundant still remain out of work.

Tim told MM: “Everybody was expecting to find jobs within months – two years later there is still nothing for them.”

Other former employees are also struggling under coalition policies that are not as favourable as they once were for the disabled and unemployed.

“Some people lost their houses. With people who live with their parents they are frightened to death about what will happen when they do die. Will they have to go in homes? There is no one to look after them,” said Tim.

Changes to provision of welfare benefit and the introduction of eligibility tests in the past few years have added to a sense of distress on the part of jobless disabled people.

Tim added: “The benefits situation is the cherry on top of it – basically the disabled have been screwed. Losing their jobs and now no benefits. A double whammy.

 “We don’t want Remploy to come back necessarily, but something in its place. We are sick of being kept in the corner and left to vegetate.”

*Worker’s name has been changed for the purpose of the piece 

The headline on this article has been ammended following clarification that Phil Hubbard is a former manager of Remploy.

Image courtesy of BBC, via Youtube, with thanks.

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