Hundreds of people with disabilities face losing their jobs after the Government announced the closure of more Remploy factories.
The Government has announced that a further 875 employees, including 682 disabled workers, are at risk of losing their jobs at Remploy factories that work in automotive textiles, e-cycle, frontline textiles, furniture, marine textiles, packaging and CCTV.
However, no employees in the automotive or employment services businesses are at risk of redundancy as part of the proposals set out in this statement.
But Remploy and the Government stressed that no final decisions about factory closures or redundancies have been made.
In July the Government announced that 27 Remploy factories would close by the end of this year with about 1,700 disabled workers losing their jobs. Since then, 34 sites have ceased operations.
The remaining 18 sites were due to close or be sold-off next year – but this process has now been accelerated by this announcement.
Here is how the announcement affects the remaining factories:
• The automotive business operating from factories in Coventry, Birmingham and Derby will be marketed as a going concern. Remploy does not propose to make any of the employees employed in this business redundant.
• Remploy will look to sell the furniture business, based in Neath, Sheffield and Blackburn, but it currently makes significant losses, so staff are at risk of redundancy if no buyer is found
• Employees at the marine textiles business based at Leven and Cowdenbeath are at risk of redundancy if a buyer cannot be found. The business currently makes “significant losses”
• Remploy will also look to sell its CCTV business, but again if no buyer can be found staff will face redundancy
• Four businesses that have been judged as not commercially viable or having any realistic prospect of being sold as going concerns are proposed for closure: these are e-cycle (based at Porth and Heywood), frontline textiles (based at Dundee, Stirling and Clydebank), packaging (based at Norwich, Portsmouth, Burnley and Sunderland) and automotive textiles (based in Huddersfield).
The Government has put in place an £8 million package of support for employees that are made redundant, including tailored support.
However, shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne condemned the move and called for the closures to stop.
“This is a shameful act from a contemptuous government,” he said. “[work and pensions minister] Iain Duncan Smith is the minister who said that Remploy workers did nothing better than sit around drinking cups of coffee. Now, in a final act of contempt he has sacked almost all of them, despite knowing that 90% of those who lost their jobs in the last closures are still out of work.
“We say loud and clear this round of closures must stop. David Cameron's government is failing to get disabled workers back into jobs. The Work Programme is worse than doing nothing. This closure plan must stop until there’s a plan that works to get disabled workers back into jobs.”
Meanwhile, trade union Unite has reacted with fury to this announcement. Unite general secretary, Len McCluskey said: “The timing is callous so close to Christmas when ministers had previously said the funding for those sites, due to close or be sold off in 2013, was secure until August and September next year.
“It is a cruel decision, given that of those sacked in the first round of closures, only about 50 have found new jobs in the last three months.
“We call on ministers to stop the closure programme immediately until there is a review of the shambles of selling-off Remploy sites to commercial interests, and we can see evidence of the much heralded £8 million “Help and Support Package” for those disabled workers already sacked.
“Our members are getting no additional support to get into work or training.
“Workers at several sites have been told the factory had been bought and has a future, but later they are informed the prospective buyer has withdrawn so the factory will close anyway. There have been many complaints from potential buyers over the bidding process.
“Once again, this reveals a heartless and calculating government, putting cost-cutting before the real needs and employment prospects of disabled workers. It is a national disgrace.”