Sad day for Havering and Brentwood workers as Remploy factory closes

It was a sad day for disabled workers when Barking Remploy closed its gates for the last time on Friday.

Around 50 employees, including those from Havering and Brentwood, have been made redundant.

Julie Haynes, Unite shop steward at the Longreach Road factory, said just after the closure: “It really was emotional. A couple of hours ago I was a taxpayer. Monday morning I will be on benefits – I can’t see the logic in it.”

Around 2,800 people across the country are employed by the government-owned company, which announced the closure of 27 of its 54 factories, including the Barking facility, by December.

This will mean more than 1,400 people are set to be made redundant by the end of the year, with the remaining factories due to close in 2013.

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Remploy workers staged two 24-hour national strikes last month to protest against the closure, while petitions and campaigns have been trying to reverse the government’s decision since the plans were announced last year.

For thousands of employees around the country, some of them with learning disabilities, this will mean competing on the mainstream job market with able-bodied people during a recession and high unemployment.

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Mrs Haynes added: “Everyone has been so uplifted because of the Olympics. Now we’ll get the Paralympics, and for disabled people that’s going to be like a slap in the face.

“We’re going to be celebrating the achievements of disabled people – and they’re going to be at home realising they’re on benefits now.

“I know Remploy was expensive but it could be run differently and more efficiently.”

The government insists that the factories are not financially viable.

The Department for Work and Pensions wants to use the �320million budget for disability employment to get disabled people into mainstream employment through the Access to Work programme instead.

It promised provisions of an �8m support package for Remploy employees who are made redundant and a �15m allocation to the Access to Work programme to provide specially-adapted equipment and interpreters.

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