Government provokes union fury by rubber-stamping Remploy factory closure plan

The government has approved Remploy management’s modernisation plan, which confirms the closure of 28 factories employing disabled people.

Work and pensions secretary Peter Hain this afternoon revealed that the proposals – bitterly opposed by trade unions – had been given the green light.

“I have today agreed the final proposals that the Remploy Board submitted to me on 12 November,” he said.

“The proposals will mean many more disabled people [will be] supported in mainstream employment, fewer factory closures than previously planned and steady improvements in value for money.”

Remploy originally wanted to close 43 of its 83 factories to concentrate on placing disabled workers into mainstream employment.

But after a furious union reaction, Hain promised at the Labour Party conference that no closures would take place without the approval of government ministers.

Talks over a new plan then broke down when unions refused to accept Remploy management’s proposal that 28 factories be closed.

But the government has now rubber-stamped the plan, and said 15 factories had been saved from closure by plans to sell an extra £163m-worth of Remploy goods to the government in the next five years. Remploy will also reduce costs by £10m over the same period through changes to working practices.

The GMB union, which has led the fight for all factories to stay open, was dismayed by the announcement.

General secretary Paul Kenny said: “This government-controlled operation has failed its people, its principles and its purpose.”

He added that the union would continue to campaign for changes to the Remploy management team.

“These closures are completely unnecessary,” added Kenny. “If Remploy was called Northern Rock I am certain that we would not be seeing a single redundancy.”

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