The Conservative minister for disabled people, Esther McVey, announced this morning (Thursday) that Remploy’s Frontline Textiles and Marine Textiles factories in Dundee, Stirling, Clydebank, Leven and Cowdenbeath in Scotland would close, as well as packaging factories in Norwich, Portsmouth, Burnley and Sunderland.
Remploy said that 284 people, including 234 disabled employees, would lose their jobs as a result of the factory closures.
Hours after the announcement, Disabled People Against Cuts said its supporters would be protesting about the closures outside Remploy offices in south London tomorrow (Friday), along with current and former Remploy workers.
There was better news for some disabled employees, with Remploy announcing that it had received a “viable bid” for its two E-Cycle factories in Porth and Heywood, although the company stressed that there was “no guarantee that the bid will lead to a successful transfer of ownership or that all jobs in the business will be retained”.
And Remploy also said that a social enterprise had bid for some of the assets of the five Scottish factories, which had “the potential” to create jobs for some disabled people.
McVey said that, of Remploy’s 27 CCTV contracts, two of them were likely to be “terminated”, but eight were being taken back in-house, either by local authorities or other service-providers, saving about 50 jobs, with discussions continuing with bidders for the other 17 contracts.
Discussions will continue with bidders for Remploy’s automotive business, which employs 179 disabled people in factories in Coventry, Birmingham and Derby; and for its furniture business in Port Talbot, Sheffield and Blackburn.
Five years ago, there were 83 Remploy sheltered factories spread across the UK. The Labour government closed 29 factories in 2008, while the coalition announced in March 2012 that it was closing a further 36, although it said that some of the final 18 could be saved.
Before the latest announcement, more than 1,400 disabled people had lost their jobs as a result of the closures under the coalition.
McVey said that, of the 1,103 disabled former Remploy workers who had so far chosen to receive one-to-one support from government-funded advisers – including access to a personal budget of £2,500 per person – about 400 were currently in work, with another 328 receiving training through the Work Choice specialist disability employment programme.
Anne McGuire, Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people, told MPs: “The government’s aim has always been to get rid of the Remploy liability in this financial year, and no matter what else was said, this was always going to be the cut-off point.”
McVey said the closure programme was about “supporting disabled people”, and was necessary because £50 million—a sixth of the budget for employment support for disabled people – was “going into failing factories”.
She said the government would be working on its new disability employment strategy over the summer.
But Kevin Hepworth, regional officer for the union Unite, said: “This cruel announcement continues the unrelenting attacks on disabled workers. This latest statement is dressed up by promises and funding that no one can realistically access.
“It is totally the wrong time to close these factories – the better option would be to create community hubs helping the unemployed disabled and other disadvantaged unemployed people.”
Hepworth said the government had “turned its back” on disabled people in Scotland by closing the country’s last five Remploy factories, and “lives up to its reputation for callousness and cruelty”.
He said disabled Remploy workers were “being thrown onto the scrap heap when unemployment remains very high, especially if you have a disability”.
4 July 2013