Remploy: Disabled workers finding fresh starts in former factories


theweek120by150One in four of the 36 Remploy factories that were condemned to closure last year are now helping to provide jobs for some of their former disabled employees, according to new figures.

Nine of the former sheltered factories have either been taken over, or have reopened or are set to reopen as new businesses or social enterprises, sometimes in different locations, although few appear to be run or led by disabled ex-workers.

Five years ago, there were 83 Remploy sheltered factories across the UK. But the Labour government closed 29 of them in 2008, while the coalition announced in March 2012 that another 36 would have to close, although it said that some of the remaining 18 could be saved.

More than 1,400 disabled people have since lost their jobs as a result of the closures, which followed the publication of the Sayce review in 2011, which recommended an end to government ownership and funding for Remploy, and the closure of factories which were “not viable”.

The process in which Remploy has asked for “expressions of interest” in the final 18 factories ended this week, and the results will not be known until later in the year.

But of the 36 factories originally earmarked for closure, two – the factories in Chesterfield and Barrow – have been sold to private sector companies as going concerns, although only some of the employees have been transferred to the new employers.

In a pattern that appears to have been followed in other factories that have been taken over or reopened, R Healthcare, the company that bought the Chesterfield factory, found jobs for approximately 25 ex-Remploy workers, believed to be about a third of those who worked there previously.

And Jerry Nelson, national secretary for manufacturing for the GMB union, said only those ex-Remploy staff with lower support needs were being taken on by this and other companies that are buying or taking over the former factories.

In Wigan, former Remploy managers helped set up Red Rock, a new company which will specialise in paper scanning and document retrieval. Remploy said it “effectively gifted the site and the equipment to Red Rock”, which will employ about 25 people.

In Oldham, two former Remploy managers have set up a social enterprise, 4D Enterprises, which is employing 25 former Remploy workers and is using equipment bought from Remploy, and will continue to make windows and doors.

In Bolton, a new social enterprise, Ability Tec, will specialise in contract electronics manufacturing, with the help of equipment given to them by Remploy, with disabled people – including former Remploy employees – making up at least three-quarters of the staff.

The Remploy factory in Wrexham has been taken over by Disability Employment – formerly known as Stoke Workshops for the Blind – and will continue to make furniture for local authorities.

In Birkenhead, the factory was sold to a neighbouring business, which plans to take on some of the former Remploy workers.

In Haringey, north London, three of the 22 former Remploy workers have found jobs with Fashion Enter – which produces and manufactures clothing and provides business support for designers, and has taken over the Remploy factory site – while another three are being retrained.

And with the help of grants from the Welsh government, 12 former Remploy workers have secured jobs at a logistics company which is taking on some of the work previously carried out by Bridgend’s Remploy factory, with another 11 jobs for ex-Remploy workers at a Bridgend company that specialises in recycling furniture.

Meanwhile, five former workers from the former Aberdeen Remploy factory have started their own co-operative business.

And 13 former Remploy workers from the former Leeds and Pontefract factories have used some of their redundancy money to set up Enabled Works – a co-operative factory, specialising in hand assembly and packing – on a new site in Morley, on the edge of Leeds.

A Remploy spokesman said: “The outcomes of former employees finding jobs in former Remploy factories and other companies is a result of the hard work that has been done to support them after the factories have closed. We hope other former employees will also find jobs in the future.”

He added: “We have effectively gifted assets [such as office equipment]worth approximately £4 million to social enterprises and charities for them to either employ Remploy people or just for projects of their own.”

11 April 2013