NEARLY 60 disabled workers at Remploy’s Benton factory face losing their jobs as the site is one of 36 to be earmarked for closure nationwide, it was announced yesterday.
The Benton Square Industrial Estate furniture factory, which employs 59 people – 55 of whom are disabled – is one of the vast majority of Remploy factories deemed by the government not to be commercially viable.
On making the decision the government has accepted the recommendation in the Sayce Review, published in June last year, which said that future finding should be used support disabled people into mainstream employment, rather than subsidise organisations like Remploy
Remploy will now consult with trade unions and management on the proposed closure this year of the 36 factories – including nearby Ashington, Gateshead and Spennymoor – out of 54 in total, which it says would be unseasonable without government subsidy.
The jobs 1,752 employees directly or indirectly employed by these factories are hanging in the balance as a result.
As we went to press yesterday, North Tyneside MP Mary Glindon was due to attend an official briefing with Minister for Disabled People Maria Miller at Westminster, to be given more details.
Mrs Glindon said: “I’m just gutted that the government has actually made the decision to close Remploy factories at a time they know it’s difficult for everyone to get other employment.
“They had a chance to give people a lifeline. The Remploy factories had a good record. We have waited for a decision since October and they always hoped it would continue. I have been made redundant myself and it’s horrible having that hanging over your head.
“We’ll have to see what the minister says today, but either way I’ll be in touch Remploy myself to see what I and the people in my office can do. I will work to support the people from North Tyneside.”
Phil Davies, national officer of the General Municipal Boilermakers (GMB) union said: “This decision to sack 1,752 people in 36 Remploy factories across the country is one of the worst decisions that this discredited coalition government has taken since coming to office.
“Thousands of disabled workers will now pay with their jobs for the incompetence of this government and other public sector bodies that did not take advantage of EU procurement rules that allow supported manufacturing jobs for disabled workers.
“These factories have lacked support for years and have never been properly loaded with enough work to make them economically viable.”
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “This is a barbaric decision. The government has sunk to a new low by sacking over 1,000 disabled workers.
“To choose to cut these jobs only a few days after the government passed the welfare bill is proof it has no intention of helping the most vulnerable in society, instead the coalition is only making life worse.
“In the worst economic crisis since the 1930s, these workers prospects of finding work are almost zero. Unite is determined to fight this decision.”