DEVASTATED staff at Wrexham’s Remploy factory have been dealt the blow they have been dreading.
The Government announced yesterday that the Railway Road branch of the company, which employs disabled workers, will be closing by the end of the year along with 26 other sites across the UK.
The “loss-making sites could not be subsidised any longer” was the reason given in Parliament by Maria Miller, Minister for Disabled People, who told MPs the £320 million budget for disabled employment services could be spent more effectively.
A further consultation on the future of nine other Remploy factories which have been the subject of bids will be carried out but it is believed those which have not been so lucky will be closing between August and mid-December.
Barry Lyons, who works on the shop floor in Wrexham, said the staff were gutted by the announcement.
“We were called together in the afternoon and told the bid for our factory hadn’t been ‘viable’ and we’d basically all be out of jobs,” he said.
“We’d half expected it but we still had hope. Now it’s actually happened it’s a complete bombshell.”
Another member of staff, who did not wish to be named, added: “We were just read a statement from the company saying the factory’s closing.
“By the sounds of it the bid for our place jumped the first hurdle but fell at the second. I can’t believe that’s it.”
Workers at the Wrexham factory and their colleagues at the other 53 sites across the UK were due to stage two 24-hour strikes on Thursday, July 19, and Thursday, July 26, and the GMB union said the planned walkout would go ahead despite yesterday’s announcement.
More than 40 members of staff will lose their jobs in Wrexham but Ms Miller said: “We are doing everything we can to ensure Remploy workers will receive a comprehensive package of support and guidance to make the transition from Government-funded sheltered employment to mainstream jobs.”
The decision has dismayed those who have fought long and hard to safeguard Wrexham’s plant.
David Bithell, deputy mayor and county councillor for Stantsy ward where the factory is located, said he was “appalled and disappointed” by the Government’s “short-sighted decision”.
“The factory still has orders on its books including a contract to supply kitchen units to Wrexham Council.
“And Remploy has received tremendous support from the people of Wrexham who have signed petitions to save the factory.
“When the factory was threatened with closure in 2007 this support helped save it and we sincerely hoped it would be the case on this occasion.
“My heartfelt sympathy goes out to the 42 employees in Wrexham who may find it difficult to make the adjustment to mainstream employment.”
Wrexham MP Ian Lucas said: “Workers in Remploy, in Wrexham and across the country, have told the Government their plans are wrong.
The Government has not listened. It has failed Remploy workers by forcing its plans through in the shortest amount of time possible.
“I had been working behind the scenes with many organisations in Wrexham to support a private sector bid for the local factory but that bid has been rejected by the Government today.
“I am bitterly disappointed and I will continue to do all I can to help Remploy workers in Wrexham in the coming months.”