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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 May 2007, 15:18 GMT 16:18 UK
Disability firm to close 43 sites
Remploy workers
Remploy helps disabled people find work
A firm which employs disabled people has unveiled cost-cutting plans to close 43 factories across Britain.

A total of 32 of Remploy's 83 factories will close and a further 11 will merge with other sites under the plans.

Remploy says no disabled person will be made compulsorily redundant, but it wants to place 2,270 disabled people into mainstream employment.

Unions called for the sites to stay open and criticised six disability charities who have backed the closures.

Remploy said 2,270 disabled people and 280 non-disabled workers would be affected by the closures in England and Scotland and Wales.

However, the firm, which was set up in the 1940s and currently employs 5,000 disabled staff, said anyone who wished to continue working would be able to do so.

'Change needed'

Bob Warner, Remploy's chief executive, told a news conference the company's factories were losing around 100m a year.

Remploy said it had an "ambitious" programme to transfer resources from loss-making factories to support more than 20,000 workers in mainstream employment.

Mr Warner said every factory job cost more than 20,000 a year to support.

We feel frustrated and totally betrayed by the company and the government
Les Woodward
Remploy worker

"We have a great opportunity to help more disabled people find jobs," he said. "But we have to change how we work in all areas of Remploy.

"There is now an acceptance that disabled people would prefer to work in mainstream employment alongside non-disabled people rather than in sheltered workshops from which they do not progress and develop."

He said even after the closures it would cost around 9,000 to subsidise each factory job and he could not guarantee there would be no further closures.

Union anger

Phil Davies, national officer for the GMB union, said: "We do not accept this level of closures and we will fight to maintain the current factory network.

"The trade unions do not accept the financial arguments that have been put forward and we are concerned at the way the company has conducted itself in the last few weeks, including leaking information to the media."

Mr Davies also accused six charities which had supported closure plans of acting in a "despicable manner".

Mencap, Mind, Radar, Scope, Leonard Cheshire and the Royal National Institute of Deaf People have said disabled people were more likely to have fulfilling lives by working in an "inclusive environment".

Mr Davies said unions would consult their members but he raised the prospect of a national industrial action ballot across workers at the 83 factories.

Modernise

Minister for Disabled People, Anne McGuire, said the government had committed over half a billion pounds to Remploy over the next five years to help it modernise and employ more disabled people.

"I understand the concerns that Remploy's proposals will raise for some employees. However, I have already given an undertaking that there will be no compulsory redundancies for disabled employees."

A group of Remploy workers protesting outside the news conference. held banners saying "save our factories".

Les Woodward, a disabled worker based in Swansea, said: "We feel frustrated and totally betrayed by the company and the government.

"This has come as a complete shock to us all - we did not expect such decimation. They have declared war on us."

The following Remploy factories will close under the plans: Aberdare, Aberdeen, Abertillery, Aintree, Ashington, Bradford, Bridgend, Brixton (London), Halifax, Hartlepool, Hillington (Glasgow), Hull, Leatherhead, Leicester, Lydney (Forest of Dean), Manchester, Mansfield, Medway, Pinxton (Derbyshire), Plymouth, Poole, St Helens, Southend, Spennymoor, Stockton, Treforest, Wigan, Wisbech, Wishaw (Lanarkshire), Worksop, Wrexham and York.

The following factories will merge with another site: Barnsley, Birkenhead, Brynamman, Jarrow, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Pontefract, Redruth, Southampton, Stockport, Woolwich (London) and Ystradgynlais.

A final decision on their fate will be taken later this year.


SEE ALSO
Union fears over Remploy closures
22 May 07 |  Scotland

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