DISABLED Wearside workers are facing a bleak Christmas after news Sunderland’s Remploy factory is to close.
The Pallion packaging plant escaped the axe in the first round of factory closures earlier this year but Minister for Disabled People Esther McVey confirmed the site was among those earmarked for closure in the latest round of cuts.
The Government is axing a number of Remploy businesses, including the packaging operation, which has factories in Norwich, Portsmouth and Burnley, as well as Sunderland.
“These factories are now proposed for closure, with all the staff working there at risk of redundancy,” said the minister.
The Sunderland plant employs 35 people.
Staff were informed of the closure decision yesterday – but unions were not told.
Sunderland GMB rep Val Scott only found out her members were losing their jobs when she was contacted by the Echo.
“I am absolutely furious,” she said.
“The company has not told me anything. They did not give me the opportunity to go down there and be with my members as the announcement was made.
“The workforce was told at 10am that the factory was going to close, but they have not told the union officials.
“I think that is absolutely disgusting.”
The union had challenged the wisdom of the existing closure programme in light of the disappointing results of the Government’s existing work programme.
“We have asked whether or not it is the right thing to do, to go ahead with closing the rest of the factories when the Government has failed to meet its own work programme targets, but the minister has just pressed ahead with the programme, ignoring the reality of the situation.
“It is disgraceful.”
Sunderland Central MP Julie Elliott also condemned the move: “I am shocked and saddened by this announcement,” she said.
“It is another example of this Government’s uncaring approach to disabled people.
“The timing could not have been worse, just before Christmas. I am willing to assist any constituent affected by this announcement.
“However, in the current economic climate, the job prospects for those concerned are not positive.
Sunderland City Council leader Paul Watson, whose Pallion ward covers the factory site, vowed the authority would do everything it could to help those hit by the closure.
“Earlier this year, the city council agreed that if the Government carried out closures of all Remploy factories, then we would commit to support, as far as is possible, employees who are from Sunderland.
“The Government has taken this decision to close Remploy and there can be no doubt this will have an impact on some of this city’s most vulnerable residents.
“We are looking at what support the council can provide.”