Remploy has announced its Sheffield’s factory is set to close with the loss of about 80 jobs – and a former Remploy factory in Chesterfield is up for sale.
The GMB trade union, representing staff at the Brightside Lane furniture factory in Sheffield, accused management of an ‘act of betrayal’ against disabled workers who had believed a private buyer could be found.
Remploy had been in negotiations with Barnsley school furniture maker Metalliform to take over Sheffield and other factories in Blackburn and Neath.
However, the private firm pulled out.
Another company, Cloughtons office equipment, based in Melton, East Yorkshire, made a bid which it insists was viable – but it was turned down by Remploy.
Remploy is closing or selling its sites after the Government decided to stop the company’s subsidy, because it believes the money would be better-spent subsidising jobs for disabled people with mainstream employers.
Sheffield’s Remploy factory is losing £650,000 a month.
James Stribley, organiser for the GMB, said: “Staff in Sheffield were led to believe another company would be coming in to take the factory over. This is a betrayal.”
Mr Stribley, who is meeting with Sheffield South East MP Clive Betts, said the announcement by R Healthcare, which took over the Remploy branch on Sheffield Road, Chesterfield, earlier in the year, was ‘worrying’.
More than 30 staff work at the site.
Gerard Toplass, managing director of Cloughtons, said: “Our proposal was viable – although it would have taken three years to make the factory profitable – and would have secured employment.
“I would like to know why our bid was refused.
“The problem is not with the workforce but that the factory has inadequate products and the wrong sales strategy.”
Remploy said in a statement: “The Remploy Board has given careful consideration to the bids which were assessed for viability on a series of criteria including continued employment of disabled people, value for money for the taxpayer and the sustainability of the business.
“The board has determined that no viable business bids meeting these criteria were received for the furniture business and as a result it will close and all its factories will now move to closure.”
Steve Jones, managing director of R Healthcare, said: “Transition from Remploy proved to be very problematic and cost the business over £500,000.
“Directors are looking at alternatives to secure the future of the business.”