Plans to remove all government funding from Remploy’s sheltered factories could leave just three of them operating in the private sector or as social enterprises, with the loss of hundreds more jobs.
Only four years ago, there were 83 factories spread across the UK, but Remploy announced today that staff at nearly all of those still left were now at risk of redundancy.
Remploy said in a company statement that another 875 employees – 682 of them disabled people – had been told they faced losing their jobs.
The unions attacked the announcement, with Unite describing it as “cruel, callous and calculated”, and the TUC calling it “heartless”.
The last government closed 29 Remploy factories in 2008, while the coalition announced in March that it was closing a further 36 by the end of 2012 – with the funds used to subsidise the factories to be ploughed instead into more personalised forms of employment support – although it said some of the other 18 could be saved.
But Remploy said in today’s statement that only three of the remaining 18 factories – the automotive business operating in Coventry, Birmingham and Derby – were “viable” and had the potential to move out of government control as a going concern.
Factories in Huddersfield, Porth, Heywood, Dundee, Stirling, Clydebank, Norwich, Portsmouth, Burnley and Sunderland have all been found “not viable” and have been “proposed for closure”, with all their staff now at risk of redundancy.
Furniture factories in Neath, Sheffield and Blackburn, and marine textiles factories in Leven and Cowdenbeath could still be sold, but Remploy suggested that they could struggle to find buyers.
These changes could leave just the three automotive factories in operation by next October, although negotiations are also continuing with bidders for two of the first 36 factories originally earmarked for closure.
In addition, Remploy is hoping to sell its CCTV business – and its 27 current contracts – but these staff have also been told they are at risk of redundancy.
Esther McVey, the Conservative minister for disabled people, told MPs today that the government had committed £8 million in support for those disabled Remploy employees made redundant.
She said the government was working with Remploy’s own Employment Services division, as well as local and national employers, and the Business Disability Forum, to offer “targeted work opportunities for disabled people”.
This could include guaranteed job interviews, work trials, training, mock interviews, and training for employers in how to make adjustments for staff with particular impairments.
McVey said that of the 1,349 disabled people made redundant so far through the closure programme, 875 had “expressed an interest in returning to work” and were using the government support package, with just under 15 per cent – about 130 – of them now in work.
She said: “It is one of our top priorities to maximise employment opportunities for the Remploy factory-leavers.”
But Len McCluskey, Unite’s general secretary, said the process of selling off the factories had been “a shambles”, while his members were not receiving the support they had been promised to help them back into work.
He said: “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.”
Brendan Barber, the TUC general secretary, added: “This is a heartless decision by a government that has shown very little interest in protecting the livelihoods of severely disabled people who need support both in and out of work.”
6 December 2012