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Remploy packaging plants emerge largely unscathed after “internal review”

Proposals unveiled this month (May) by Remploy, the UK's leading employment services provider for disabled people, to close 32 factories and merge a further 11 will leave most of the company's packaging and print operations unscathed.

However in its latest “modernisation” plan, announced on May 22 following an internal review, the Government-funded business named among plants highlighted for closure its Manchester print operation. The factory employs 42 staff, 31 of whom are disabled, and produces commercial print, including brochures, letterheads and instruction manuals. The other six Remploy packaging and print sites, in Sunderland, Norwich, Burnley, Portsmouth, Croespenmaen in Wales and North Staffordshire, are not included in the closure proposals.

Remploy is now undertaking a 90-day consultation with trade unions, after which it will return to Government with final proposals. Its plans to close 32 of its 83 UK plants were slammed by trade union Unite, which said many of the affected workers would “find it almost impossible to get other jobs”. However Remploy PR manager Helen Wardle stressed no employee would be made compulsorily redundant; instead individuals would be offered a choice of early retirement where applicable, voluntary redundancy, or retention as a Remploy employee while being helped to find another job in a “mainstream” company.

Wardle said: “Like many companies Remploy has been hit by overseas competition, and the rising costs of running a large business.”

Remploy’s own recent internal review follows a separate National Audit Office review, whose results were published in late 2005, and a Government-commissioned PriceWaterhouseCoopers review, published last July, both of which examined future options for keeping the business viable.

Wardle adds: “All Remploy operations are loss-making, with the average loss per employee around £20,000. Over the next five years our aim is to reduce this to around £9,000 per employee, with the money saved enabling us to quadruple (from 5,000-20,000) the number of disabled people we help into mainstream jobs annually. (Remploy already operates six city centre branches to help the disabled into “mainstream” work, and plans to increase this to 20 by the year-end)

The Manchester plant earmarked for closure made a loss of £522,000 last year, equating to an average loss per employee of just over £16,800. It received a government grant of £135m last year.