Portsmouth’s Remploy factory faces closure

DEMO Members from Unite Union on the picket line outside Remploy in Rodney Road, Fratton earlier this year.   Picture: Sarah Standing (122496-3031)
DEMO Members from Unite Union on the picket line outside Remploy in Rodney Road, Fratton earlier this year. Picture: Sarah Standing (122496-3031)
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AROUND 15 jobs could be lost if a factory which gives work to disabled people is to close as planned.

The factory, based on Rodney Road in Fratton, makes cardboard packaging and was once a thriving business employing 90 people.

But it has been deemed too expensive to run by the government, which has told Remploy staff in the UK that they face compulsory redundancy if no-one comes forward to buy the businesses.

Instead ministers have pledged an £8m fund to try and help all 682 disabled Remploy employees in the UK get into mainstream work.

Ministers announced earlier this year that a number of Remploy factories would close, arguing that the budget for disabled employment services could be spent more effectively.

Thirty-four factories have ceased operations since then and are in the process of closing, but the future of a further 18 sites remained unclear.

Some of the factories have the potential to move out of government-funded support, but others – including Portsmouth – are set to close, ministers said today.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: ‘From today, Remploy will invite expressions of interest to take over the running of the remaining factories.

‘Our priority throughout this process is to safeguard jobs, which is why we are offering a wage subsidy of up to £6,400 per disabled employee to encourage interested parties to come forward.

‘We have also been clear from the start that we have protected the £320 million budget for disability employment services.

‘But we are following the advice of disability expert Liz Sayce to use the money more effectively to get more disabled people into mainstream jobs - the same as everyone else.

‘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.’

Earlier this year workers at Portsmouth’s Remploy went on strike in protest over the closures, should no-one come forward to buy the business.

Nick Durrant, shop steward at the factory told The News at the time: that despite the recession decreasing the factory’s orders by a third, there is still a demand for its services – and for it to remain a lifeline for those who work there.

He said: ‘If this place closes, what are we going to do for work?

‘There are people working here who won’t be able to work anywhere else at all.’

Today Phil Davies, of the GMB union, said: ‘This is devastating news but not untypical from this uncaring government who cannot be relied on to protect the vulnerable.

‘To make this announcement three weeks before Christmas is despicable.

‘Less that 40 of the 1,200 people made redundant in August and since have found jobs.

‘The others are sitting at home isolated from the rest of society.’