Remploy closures: Aberdare, Abertillery, Merthyr, Swansea and Wrexham

Five factories employing disabled workers in Wales are among 27 Remploy sites which will close, the UK government has announced.

It said the Aberdare, Abertillery, Merthyr, Swansea and Wrexham factories will shut with the loss of 189 jobs.

Two other sites which were at risk - Bridgend and Croespenmaen in Caerphilly county - will remain open.

The UK government says the £320m budget for disabled employment services could be spent more effectively.

Maria Miller, Minister for Disabled People, also announced a further consultation on the future of nine other Remploy factories across the UK.

In a statement to the Commons, Ms Miller said the workers had been informed of the announcement on Tuesday afternoon.

"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," she said.

Union sources said the 27 factories 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 UK government earlier this year of closures.

The GMB and Unite unions said the strikes would go ahead despite Tuesday's announcement.

Workers' rally

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 UK government said money from the disability employment budget should be reinvested into other schemes to help disabled people find work.

But Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith said the announcement was a "real blow for those employees who have relied on stable employment in Remploy factories for many years".

"The Remploy factories are an imperfect solution for the employment needs of disabled workers but for many they've been a real lifeline and they remain, in the present climate, a source of employment in areas where jobs are increasingly hard to come by," he added.

'Devolve budget'

The Welsh government said it had previously asked the UK government to devolve the Remploy budget and factories so that it could create its own "sustainable future" for the organisation.

"The Department for Work and Pensions has refused to consider this," a spokesperson said.

"We will continue to work with Remploy, the unions and other interested parties - of which there are many - to see whether we can find a viable option for the workers. We will strive to find the best solution we can and to save as many jobs as possible."

Plaid Cymru Social Policy spokesperson at Westminster, Hywel Williams MP, backed the Welsh government's calls to devolve the Remploy budget.

"We can achieve a great deal in creative and worthwhile development in supported employment in Wales if the responsibility, and most importantly the resources, are transferred from London to Cardiff," he said.

The UK government announced in March that Remploy was planning to close 36 of its 54 factories, putting more than 1,700 jobs at risk.

In June, Remploy staff from across Wales took part in a rally in Cardiff protesting against plans to close the factories, which will leave just four Welsh sites.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites