Furious trade unions have “declared war” on the coalition, after it backed proposals that could see most of Remploy’s remaining sheltered factories closed down, and an end to the company’s government funding.
In its response to last month’s review of employment support for disabled people, the government said it was “minded to accept” the recommendations on Remploy.
It will now consult on these and other proposals in the review, which was carried out by RADAR chief executive Liz Sayce.
She recommended an end to government ownership and funding for Remploy, and the closure of factories which were “not viable”.
But she said others could be taken over by disabled workers and become social enterprises, co-operatives, or “mutuals” owned by their employees, with the help of short-term, “tapering”, government subsidies.
But Les Woodward, Remploy convenor for the GMB union, said Maria Miller, the minister for disabled people, had “made it perfectly clear” in a meeting this week that the government would provide no such subsidies to help workers take over factories.
He said: “There is absolutely no funding for Remploy factories. That is the way it came across to us.
“They want to ditch Remploy and they want to ditch it like a hot potato and do it as fast as possible.”
He said the only way Remploy workers would be able to take over any of the factories would be if “a huge wodge of money” was made available to help start the new businesses.
He added: “The trade union consortium will fight any closures by any which way possible. They have declared war on us and we will declare war and fight back with any weapons that we have got in our armoury.”
When asked what those weapons might be, Woodward said: “Did Churchill put in the papers what the plans were for D-Day? No, he didn’t.”
The government spends about £25,000 to subsidise each of the 2,800 disabled factory staff still working in the remaining 54 sheltered Remploy factories, although 544 of those workers have applied for voluntary redundancy.
Sayce said last month that there was “total consensus” among disabled people’s organisations that segregated employment, such as that offered by the Remploy factories, was “not a model for the 21st century”.
Phil Davies, national secretary for Remploy for the GMB union, said there were “no prospects” that any of the factories would stay open without government funding, and that the union would “staunchly defend these jobs and the communities they are in”.
He added: “The current employment in the 54 factories are real jobs making products for mainline companies like Jaguar Rover, and supplying goods to the armed forces.”
A Department for Work and Pensions spokeswoman insisted that, despite Woodward’s report of the meeting with the minister, “no decisions have been made on Remploy factories – that is one of the issues we are consulting about”.
The closing date for the consultation is 17 October.