Remploy: Last Welsh plants, Porth and Baglan, may shut

The last two Remploy factories in Wales, employing about 140 people, are at risk in another round of closures.

Workers at sites in Baglan, Neath Porth Talbot, and Porth, Rhondda, have been told they face compulsory redundancy.

The UK government is asking for "expressions of interest" from firms willing to take on the plants which employ people with disabilities.

Remploy's Bridgend site will close in March. There were nine in Wales but six of these have already shut this year.

The six that closed had employed 272 staff.

The factories were established 66 years ago as part of the creation of the welfare state.

Remploy said its furniture business based in Baglan had the potential to be commercially viable, but currently makes significant losses.

In a statement, it said: "To achieve commercial viability it is likely that the business would require significant restructuring and downsizing of its operations.

"Remploy will market this business as a prospective going concern but recognising that the current trading position of the business may ultimately result in no viable bids being received and that there may therefore be consequential redundancies and factory closures.

"All staff in this business are now at risk of redundancy."

It said the operation in Porth, which recycles computer equipment, was not commercially viable and did not have any realistic prospect of being sold as a going concern.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said a wage subsidy of up to £6,400 per disabled employee was on offer to any parties interested in taking on the factories.

'Devastating news'

A DWP spokesperson said: "All disabled employees affected by the changes will be guaranteed tailored support from an £8m package, including a personal case worker, to help with the transition into mainstream employment."

The GMB union said: "This is devastating news for the disabled workers in Remploy and gives the lie to the chancellor's claim in his autumn statement yesterday that the vulnerable would be taken care of by the [UK] government."

Rhondda Labour MP Chris Bryant told the Commons that Remploy workers were told by email about the proposed closures.

He said: "When businesses sacked people by text message, there rightly was condemnation around the country and people said this was cowardly and despicable.

"When Burberry tried to close its [Rhondda] factory and made its announcement at the beginning of December a few years ago, there was again condemnation this was again the wrong time of the year to be doing such a thing.

"But the government today has done both of those in one.

"It has announced via email that lots of people working at Remploy factories are going to be losing their jobs and it has done it in the run-up to Christmas."

However, the DWP responded to Mr Bryant's comments by saying: "Remploy set up face-to-face briefings to deliver the news to workers at its factories this morning, and we pushed back the timing of our minister's statement especially so workers were told before anyone else".

The Welsh government has asked the UK government to devolve the funding, land, assets and contracts of the last two Remploy factories so it can create a "viable social enterprise".

Education Minister Leighton Andrews put the request to DWP minister Esther McVey over the phone on Thursday.

A spokesman said Welsh ministers had "opposed factory closures from the start".

"We have made it clear we do not believe that closing the factories will improve the lives of disabled people and we will be discussing our objections to DWP's announcement as a matter of urgency," he said.

He added that a Welsh government scheme to aid former Remploy workers had seen 97 helped with work by a range of 26 employers.

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