Fight to save factory

GMB union members protest outside Wakefield Town Hall against the proposed closure of Remploy factories.
GMB union members protest outside Wakefield Town Hall against the proposed closure of Remploy factories.
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DISABLED workers at Pontefract’s Remploy factory hit the streets to protest against government cuts which could force the facility to close.

Members of the GMB union, which represents workers at the Skinner Lane plant, held a demonstration against potential budget cuts – which it claims could lead to the closure of all 54 Remploy factories across the country.

In January, Pontefract staff were offered the chance to take voluntary redundancy, but the company – a government body which aims to increase job opportunities for people with disabilities – insisted there would be no compulsory job losses and factories would stay open.

But the government has now launched a consultation into employment services for disabled people after

Liz Sayce, chief executive of disability rights charity Radar, published a report which suggested funding might be better spent supporting disabled people to find work in the commercial sector. The organisation’s current funding will run out in April 2013.

Steve Morris, GMB regional officer for Remploy, called for the factories to be used to capacity. He said: “It would cost the treasury less to keep the factories operating fully loaded rather than putting the workers out of work on welfare. The majority of Remploy workers who lost their jobs in 2008 are still on welfare three years later.

“The crucial campaign objective is to get the loading up from 50 per cent now to 100 per cent and to keep these factories open.”

The Pontefract factory was saved from closure in 2007 after staff fought for seven months against company bosses who planned to transfer employees to the Leeds branch.

At the time, voluntary redundancies were offered to the 61 staff in a bid to reduce the factory costs and prevent closure.

There are 41 staff currently working at the Skinner Lane building, 37 of whom have a disability.

A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said “no decisions” had been made about Remploy.

He added: “We said we would consult on the recommendations put forward by Liz Sayce and that is what we are doing.

“The Sayce review is about spending money differently, not cutting it.

“The amount of money going into employment services for disabled is being protected, but by spending it differently there is the potential to support an extra 35,000 disabled people into work.”