Disabled staff fear for future

The Remploy factory workers
The Remploy factory workers
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DISABLED workers at a city factory have spoken of their fears over losing their jobs as they await a government decision on future funding.

Staff at the Remploy factory in South Gyle Crescent, who have a range of disabilities, believe they would struggle to find a new job if the UK government was to pull the plug on the public-funded manufacturing company.

The government is currently considering responses to a consultation on the Sayce report – by Liz Sayce, chief executive of disability charity Radar – which recommends an end to government funding for supported businesses.

Remploy staff are expecting a decision on the company’s future this month.

Father-of-one Ronnie Williamson, 56, from East Craigs, suffers from depression, anxiety and low confidence, and has been an operator at the factory for nearly 15 years.

He said: Since I’ve been working with Remploy, I’ve been given a bit of confidence, trying new things and meeting different people. If that’s all taken away then I could end up sitting looking out from behind the curtains.

“All we are guilty of is wanting to work, we don’t want to be benefit grabbers.”

As well as document management and scanning, which includes the archiving of files to electronic format, the firm also carries assembly for electronic products and packaging work.

Another employee, Barry Mitchell, 40, who lives in Livingston, has worked at the factory for 15 years. The product operator trainer, who had a stroke in 2000, said: “For me personally, I would struggle to find a job outside Remploy. I don’t have much confidence because of my disability.

“We are looking for the government to recognise that we do provide a valuable service and we are paying back into society by having a job. If we weren’t working, we would be taking instead of giving.”

Remploy has 54 factories across the UK employing around 2600 severely disabled people and 800 non-disabled. In Scotland, there are nine factories with around 380 severely disabled and 80 non-disabled workers.

Remploy was established in 1946 to provide work for disabled ex-service personnel. The Edinburgh factory currently has 28 employees, 27 of whom are disabled.

Lothian MSP Sarah Boyack said: “These are real jobs, offering people with a range of abilities the opportunity to develop new skills and build confidence in a way that simply would not be available in mainstream employment.”

The UK Government pointed out that all Remploy factory businesses were loss-making and lost £68 million last year.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokeswoman said: “No decisions have been made about Remploy.”