More than 1,700 disabled workers are to be made redundant after the Government announced it was withdrawing its multimillion-pound subsidy from the state-owned disability employer Remploy.
In a move described by unions as "barbaric", ministers confirmed that up to 36 of Remploy's 54 factories across the country would shut by the end of the year. When in opposition, both the Employment Minister, Chris Grayling, and the Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, had pledged to keep the factories open.
Workers at one of the Remploy plants due to close were said to be in tears on hearing the news.
But in a statement Maria Miller, the Minister for the Disabled, insisted that the annual £68m government subsidy to Remploy could be better spent on other programmes to help the disabled into work and claimed the move had the support of disabled groups.
She highlighted figures suggesting the annual cost to support each Remploy worker was £25,000 a year, compared to the equivalent £2,900 cost of its Access to Work scheme.
She added that the Government would commit £8m to help find new jobs for those affected by the closures. But Labour and the unions said it was outrageous for the Government to be effectively making 1,700 disabled workers redundant at a time of rising unemployment when there was no guarantee that other schemes would fill the gap. "This is a barbaric decision," said the Unite General Secretary, Len McCluskey.
Remploy was set up after the Second World War to provide manufacturing jobs for people with disabilities. Workers are employed in enterprises that vary from furniture and packaging manufacturing to recycling electrical appliances and operating CCTV systems.
But the company operates at an annual £68m loss – despite last year paying out £1.5m bonuses to its senior managers – a significant number of whom are able bodied. Among the factories threatened with closure are those in Leicester, Manchester, Aberdeen, Newcastle and London.
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