More than 30 workers with disabilities call on Government to save their jobs
More than 30 workers with disabilities are calling on the Government to save their jobs after Rehab announced proposals to make them redundant as the pandemic hits, despite the fact the State pays most of their wages.
The charity says business at its Rehab Logistics facility in Raheen, Limerick, has been loss-making for several years and suffered a “further deterioration… arising from the Covid-19 pandemic”, causing it to close for a few months last year.
The 37 workers at the facility, some of whom have worked there almost 40 years, say they are being treated “horrifically”. Most are on minimum wage – over half of which is paid through the Disability Wage Subsidy Scheme by the Department of Social Protection – and have been told they will not get redundancy terms agreed with their union, Siptu.
James Crosby (46), who is visually impaired, is a team leader who has worked at Rehab Logistics for 21 years. The main work involves enveloping information booklets that are included with medical devices.
“There’s only about 40 per cent of our crew here at the moment, because of Covid. We are still working though. We still have work. It’s just that things are slow.
“I work with two deaf people and they are fantastic. There are a few people with Down syndrome, some with autism. It’s more than a job here, it’s more than just wages. We’re a very happy family.
“Last Tuesday morning we got the horrific news that we could be let go in 30 days. They said that it’s going to be 30 days’ consultation and if things don’t pick up, they are going to close. People were breaking down crying. People are absolutely heartbroken, scared because all their lives all they’ve known is this place.”
Asked what would happen if they were let go, he said: “Our jobs are extremely, extremely important. Unfortunately, if the worst does come to the worst here, many of them will never work again. We are being treated horrifically.
“At this stage the Government has to step in and help us out. We have been over the years a very successful factory, we can be again. Why wouldn’t we be when the Government is paying most of our wages?”
Siptu organiser Jim Fuery said the staff were “among the most vulnerable people in society and are now faced with the loss of their employment in the middle of a pandemic”.
“They have also been told by management that the Rehab group board has sanctioned a significantly reduced redundancy package from that previously agreed,” he said. “This decision, to unilaterally reduce the redundancy package for these workers with disabilities who have decades of service, is unacceptable.”
He said Rehab closed a number of its Smiles newsagents in Dublin in December 2020. The issue of redundancy at Smiles was due to be heard by the Labour Court, he said.
A spokeswoman for Rehab confirmed it had begun a 30-day “redundancy consultation process” with staff at the logistics facility in Raheen.
“We have made every effort in recent years to identify alternative business opportunities and to adapt our business model in Raheen. Unfortunately, this was not successful, and we are at a stage where the business is now no longer viable.
“Rehab will work with each staff member to support them on an individual basis in a bid to find an alternative work or training opportunity.”
She would not comment on the redundancy package on offer either at the Raheen site or Smiles newsagents.