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Wednesday, 03 September 2014

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Firms approached to keep Remploy open Add comments

AS the fight gathers force to stop Remploy at Cleator Moor from closure, options are being explored to keep the factory open.

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priority is to stay open: Kevin Young, GMB union

It has been revealed to Copeland Council that approaches have been made to other prominent companies in the area to see if they can help provide work for the 15 people, 14 of them disabled, who are threatened with losing their jobs.

Potentially this could be achieved through the workforce setting up its own co-operative social enterprise scheme.

Councillors were told that Anne Sowerby from Co-operative Mutual Solutions had met Cleator Moor factory boss Arthur Gould to discuss the possibility.

Executive councillor for regeneration Phil Greatorex said: “She has approached companies such as Sellafield Ltd and Romar to determine scope for providing and maintaining protective clothing. Clearly now is the time for companies who promote their social credentials to step up to the plate.”

However, if the Cleator Moor factory does have to shut, Mr Greatorex understands each employee will receive a £2,500 redundancy package. The Department of Works and Pensions would also give training assistance but he added: “The likelihood of them finding alternative employment is low.”

Managing director for Remploy John Rowlands said: “My door is open to discuss and see what help I can give to the Remploy employees.”

But at this stage GMB union officials are focussed on the fight to keep Remploy in business as a government- backed manufacturing business providing valuable employment for disabled people.

Kevin Young, Whitehaven-based organiser for the GMB, said: “We are just one week into a three-month consultation so there is a hell of a long way to go.

“While employees and the union appreciate help from outside bodies such as the council our aim at the present is to keep Remploy open as it is.

“Only when the consultations are over and we know exactly what we are dealing with will we consider other options such as a social enterprise co-operative – only then.

“Our fundamental priority is to keep Remploy going as it has done since 1946. All of our Cleator Moor workers are long-serving and are happy working for Remploy, they feel safe working there.”

Some 36 of Remploy’s factories are set to close with the loss of 1,700 jobs, mainly done by disabled people.

The government claims the factories have to close because they are unable to achieve independent financial viability.

Minister for the disabled Maria Miller says the £320 million budget for disability employment was protected and could be spent more effectively funding “proven employment programmes to benefit many more disabled people”.

Shop stewards from all the closure-threatened factories were meeting this week to draw up action plans.

Mr Greatorex told fellow Copeland councillors: “It will not just be jobs that are lost, the closures will, in effect, destroy the priceless social support network, specialist education resources and, for some, remove one source of a cooked meal they are likely to receive each day.

“In the past week I have visited the Cleator Moor factory and met with the works’ manager Alan Gould, who confirmed Remploy had started consultations with its employees. He also confirmed Remploy is considering any proposals and expressions of interest to help the two Cumbrian factories in Cleator Moor and Barrow.

“Cumbria Social Enterprise Partnership has been engaging with Remploy over the past few months, both before the closures were announced and subsequently to try and generate a possible partnership solution. They have recently put forward to Remploy a formal Expression of Interest to act as an honest broker and work with partners to try and find a sustainable solution.”

A report on the Remploy operations produced by accountants KPMG shows the Cleator Moor factory generates a loss of £0.25m a year on an annual turnover of £0.32m.

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