AROUND 30 staff lost their jobs last week as the axe fell on Pontefract’s Remploy factory.
Workers walked from the factory gates to the cemetery on Skinner Lane last Thursday carrying a ceremonial coffin to mark the end of an era for the site.
Staff say the closure of the factory – which has provided employment opportunities for disabled people in the area since 1948 – will resign them to a lifetime on benefits.
David Thorpe, former shop steward, said: “People were crying because they have no prospects and no chance of a job.
“As for myself, I’ll never work again, I’m 62 in January. All of us will be going down to the job centre – it’s ridiculous.
“I’ve worked at Remploy for eight years and it’s been a shelter for disabled people. We were a team, that’s the way it’s always been.
“It’s a disgrace what this government has done.”
Remploy announced last month it would close 27 factories across the UK after the government withdrew its funding.
GMB union members held two 24-hour strikes last month to fight plans to shut the businesses by the end of the year, but workers were dealt a final blow when it was announced the Pontefract site would close on August 16.
Steve Morris, GMB union organiser, said the decision to close the site was “devastating” and will affect future generations of disabled people in the area.
He added: “The GMB remains committed to its fight to reverse the closure and will leave no stone unturned in its efforts to find alternative employment for those at the factory.”
Pontefract and Castleford MP Yvette Cooper and Featherstone MP Jon Trickett are calling on local businesses to help find jobs for redundant Remploy workers.
Ms Cooper said: “Remploy workers are often skilled and reliable workers with years of experience.
“Yet they are now really worried that they won’t be able to get other jobs because it is so hard to find work at the moment, and given the extra discrimination they face.
“It is an outrage that the government has destroyed their jobs in the middle of the recession and is giving them far too little help to get new work.
“We are appealing to local employers to help. Many businesses and employers in this area have done lots to support Remploy and disabled workers over many years.
“We need their help now to find jobs for more than 20 hard working local people.”