A union has raised major concerns that a voluntary redundancy programme could lead to the closure of some of Remploy’s 54 remaining sheltered factories.
The government-funded company has announced that 773 people – including 544 of its 2 800 disabled factory staff – have applied for voluntary redundancy, under a programme announced in January.
Remploy – the country’s largest “specialist” employer of disabled people – insisted this week that no factories would close as a result of the programme, and that it had not yet decided how many employees would be allowed to take voluntary redundancy.
But the GMB union said that if all 773 applications were accepted, the company would lose nearly a quarter of its 3,370 workforce.
Phil Davies, GMB’s national secretary and head of its manufacturing section, said: “I am very, very concerned with what’s going on as a lot of these 544 [disabled] people will not get jobs. The vast majority will not get jobs because of the [economic] climate.”
He said a union survey found that few of those who took voluntary redundancy three years ago when the Labour government closed 29 Remploy factories as part of a modernisation programme were now in work.
Davies said he was also concerned that some people with mental health conditions and learning difficulties had not received the right support to make their decision about voluntary redundancy.
He added: “I am sad to think that we have 544 people who are gainfully employed, doing skilled work and being supported and contributing to society, who may find it very difficult and are being promised jobs that cannot be delivered.”
He said the voluntary redundancy programme cast doubt on the long-term future of the factories.
But a Remploy spokesman said: “We have said it. The government have said it. The purpose of this scheme is not to close factories and we will not be [closing them].”
He said that, following the modernisation programme in 2008, of the 200 people who had accepted Remploy’s offer of help in finding jobs, 90 per cent had found work.
And he said Remploy had put in place a range of support measures for all employees to help them decide whether to take voluntary redundancy.
Remploy said the redundancies were necessary because its factories had faced “significant challenges” due to the “general decline in the manufacturing sectors in which we operate and the economic difficulties presented by the recession”, with many “operating significantly below capacity and unable to provide meaningful work for our employees”.
The government has pledged £111 million-a-year funding for Remploy until 2012-13, but has yet to reach a decision on its long-term future.
15 March 2011