DISABLED workers are voting on strike action following calls for voluntary redundancies at a Wigan factory.
Last month, bosses at Remploy, which employs 40 disabled workers at its site in Lamberhead Industrial Estate, Pemberton, announced voluntary redundancies because of reduced sales of manufactured goods, which include furniture for schools.
Now the GMB’s Central Executive Council has given union members the authority to conduct an official strike ballot over redundancies in the 54 sheltered workshops across the country.
It is expected that preparing for the ballot will take at least six weeks.
The redundancies announcement were rolled out across the company from January 31.
Brian Davies, GMB union representative for Wigan, said: “We have been asked to take voluntary redundancies and we say no. We are concerned that if not enough people take voluntary redundancy, we will have to shut the factory down.
“It is also two years since we have had a pay rise. The company is treating us with contempt.
“We are not saying we want to go on strike - it is the last thing we want to do. But we want to tell these people we wont just sit down and do what they say - we will fight.”
Paul Kenny, GMB general secretary said: “The Big Society, if its exists, must encompass finding useful work for disabled workers.
“It should encompass local communities to award contacts to sheltered workshops to make things like uniforms, school furniture and other useful things the Remploy workers make.
“It has come to a sorry pass when disabled workers have to go on strike to stay in work and stay off the dole.”
A spokesman from Remploy said: “This is a completely voluntary programme and we cannot see any justification for strike action.
“We do not believe that our employees will think that it is in their best interests to take industrial action which can only jeopardise the service we provide to customers - most of whom have plenty of alternative suppliers.
“No disabled employee is going to be made compulsorily redundant and employees will only leave if they want to.
“Remploy needs to become more efficient and reduce our costs.
“Offering a severance package to any employee who wishes to leave is a fair way of making a significant contribution to reducing over capacity.”