Hundreds more disabled workers at Remploy factories are at risk of losing their jobs under fresh closure plans, the Government has announced.
A further 875 employees, including 682 disabled people, have been told they face compulsory redundancy. Ministers announced earlier this year that a number of Remploy factories would close, arguing that the budget for disabled employment services could be spent more effectively.
Thirty-four factories have ceased operations since then and are in the process of closing, but the future of a further 18 sites remained unclear. Some of the factories have the potential to move out of Government-funded support, but others are set to close.
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: "Remploy will invite expressions of interest to take over the running of the remaining factories. Our priority throughout this process is to safeguard jobs, which is why we are offering a wage subsidy of up to £6,400 per disabled employee to encourage interested parties to come forward."
Phil Davies of the GMB union said: "This is devastating news for the disabled workers in Remploy and gives the lie to the Chancellor's claim in his Autumn Statement that the vulnerable would be taken care of by the Government."
Workers at risk of redundancy are in 15 Remploy factories, with three automotive businesses not included. Remploy said it had considered the viability of the remaining businesses and how they might move out of Government control.
The company said the automotive business operating from factories in Coventry, Birmingham and Derby was viable, with a strong and established customer base. Remploy will now move to market this business and does not propose to make any of the employees redundant. The automotive textiles operation at Huddersfield is not commercially viable and the factory is proposed for closure. All staff in this business are now at risk of redundancy.
The furniture business based in Neath, Sheffield and Blackburn has the potential to be commercially viable but currently makes significant losses, said Remploy. To achieve commercial viability it is likely that the business would require significant restructuring and downsizing of its operations.
"The marine textiles business, based at Leven and Cowdenbeath, has an established market position and might attract commercial interest. Remploy management will discuss any potential opportunities for a commercial exit with its current distributor and any other parties who express an interest," said a statement. "However the business currently makes significant losses and is not saleable currently as a going concern. The employees of the marine textiles business are therefore at risk of redundancy.
In addition to automotive textiles, three other Remploy businesses are not commercially viable or have any realistic prospect of being sold as going concerns - E-Cycle based at Porth and Heywood, frontline textiles based at Dundee, Stirling and Clydebank and packaging based at Norwich, Portsmouth, Burnley and Sunderland. These factories are now proposed for closure with all the staff there and at associated business offices at risk of redundancy.