4:56pm Wednesday 7th March 2012
© Press Association 2013
More than half of factories employing mainly disabled workers are set to close, with the loss of 1,700 jobs in a move attacked as "barbaric".
The Government announced that Remploy is proposing to close 36 of its 54 factories, with potential compulsory redundancies of 1,752 people, including 1,518 disabled employees.
Minister for disabled people Maria Miller said the Remploy board was proposing to close the sites by the end of the year because they were unlikely to achieve independent financial viability.
She said the £320 million budget for disability employment has been protected, adding that the money will be spent more effectively.
Politicians and union leaders hit out at the Government, warning that many disabled workers might never find another job, especially with unemployment moving towards three million.
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: "This is a barbaric decision. The Government has sunk to a new low. To choose to cut these jobs only a few days after the Government passed the welfare Bill is proof it has no intention of helping the most vulnerable in society. Instead the coalition is only making life worse.
"In the worst economic crisis since the 1930s, these workers' prospects of finding work are almost zero."
Shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne said it was "disappointing" the Department for Work and Pensions announced the closures in a written statement rushed out after Prime Minister's Questions, denying MPs the chance to quiz David Cameron on the "callous decision".
Ms Miller said she had assessed "very carefully" the needs of Remploy workers, as well as the 6.9 million disabled people of working age who could benefit from greater specialist employment support.
She said: "The Government will reduce its current subsidy to Remploy from the beginning of the new financial year so that we cease funding factories which make significant losses year after year and restrict funding to those factories which might have a prospect of a viable future without Government subsidy."
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