The management of Remploy is proposing to close 28 factories employing 1,600 disabled workers.
In a “final” proposal to the government, the firm said it still wanted to merge 11 plants and close 17 factories, but 15 have been removed from an original closure list.
Kenneth Stubbs, the GMB union secretary for Remploy North-East, said, after the announcement that the Spennymoore Remploy centre was no longer earmarked for closure, “It does not end here. Our thoughts turn to those factories still facing closure, and we will keep supporting each other to try to save them.”
In a move described by Remploy as a “merger”, workers at the Bradford plant will be moved to Leeds.
Joe Lawrence, who has worked at the Remploy factory for 12 years, said, “Getting from Bradford to Leeds will be a real problem for a lot of the lads.”
The 64 year old, who has used a wheelchair since breaking his back in 1984, said, “It will make my life more awkward.”
Steve Morris, Yorkshire regional organiser for the GMB, said: “We are hugely disappointed because the most severely disabled people will find it very difficult to travel to Leeds.
“This decision has turned the prospect of employment for disabled people into a postcode lottery.”
Bradford GMB’s branch secretary Terry Patton branded the proposal “disgraceful”.
Gordon Brown narrowly avoided an embarrassing defeat at the Labour Party annual conference when work and pensions secretary Peter Hain announced a moratorium on closures and promised that none would go ahead without ministerial approval.
Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB, said, “At the Labour Party conference, the government agreed a new direction based on ‘choice’ for disabled workers, using public procurement to generate a steady workload to secure the future of the Remploy factories as allowed under EU rules.
“Yet we have the absolute disgrace of a failed response from a failed management, putting forward, in public, proposals which completely ignore what was agreed at Bournemouth that will lead to the sacking of over 2,000 disabled workers.
“This is the management that said 43 factories had to go. Now they say it is 28. They know that they are jumping the gun with these proposals.”