Remploy plants closure confirmed
The Government has confirmed the closure of 27 factories employing disabled workers, saying the loss-making sites could not be subsidised any longer.
Maria Miller, minister for disabled people, told MPs the £320 million budget for disabled employment services could be spent more effectively.
She also announced a further consultation on the future of nine other Remploy factories which have been the subject of bids.
Union sources said the 27 factories across the UK will close between August and mid-December.
Workers at Remploy's 54 factories are due to stage two 24-hour strikes in the coming weeks in protest at an announcement by the Government earlier this year of closures.
The GMB union said the strikes would go ahead despite the announcement.
The minister, who was heckled by opposition MPs during her statement to the Commons, said Remploy workers had been informed of the announcement. She said: "This is difficult news. We are doing everything we can to ensure that Remploy workers will receive a comprehensive package of support and guidance to make the transition from Government-funded sheltered employment to mainstream jobs."
The Government announced in March that Remploy was planning to close 36 of its 54 factories, putting more than 1,700 jobs at risk. The sites named were at Aberdare, Aberdeen, Abertillery, Acton, Ashington, Barking, Barrow, Birkenhead, Bolton, Bridgend, Bristol, Chesterfield, Cleator Moor, Croespenmaen, Edinburgh, Gateshead, Leeds, Leicester, Manchester, Merthyr Tydfil, Motherwell, Newcastle, North London, North Staffs, Oldham, Penzance, Pontefract, Poole, Preston, Southampton, Spennymoor, Springburn, Swansea, Wigan, Worksop and Wrexham.
The factories were established 66 years ago as part of the creation of the welfare state. Workers are employed in enterprises that vary from furniture and packaging manufacturing to recycling electrical appliances and operating CCTV systems and control rooms.
The Government said money from the disability employment budget should be reinvested into other schemes to help disabled people find work. But the Unite union accused the Government of showing a "callous disregard" for disabled workers and attacked Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith for not making the statement himself.