FIFTY jobs at East Lancashire’s two remaining Remploy factories are under threat after a major review of the factories was announced.

The announcement — just three weeks before Christmas — has been described as ‘despicable’.

Remploy’s disabled staff at factories in Bank Top, Blackburn, and on the Smallshaw industrial estate in Burnley have been told they are at risk of redundancy in a fresh wave of shutdowns announced by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).

The Blackburn site, which makes furniture, is being placed on the market but bosses accept there may be no reasonable prospect of a takeover.

And if it is sold, there may be ‘significant restructuring and downsizing of its operations’.

But workers at the Burnley packaging factory have been told it is one of a number of sites which are ‘not commercially viable or have any realistic prospect of being sold as going concerns’ and a 90-day redundancy consultation is underway.

Phil Davies, national secretary of the GMB union, said: “This is devastating news but not untypical from this uncaring government who cannot be relied on to protect the vulnerable. To make this announcement three weeks before Christmas is despicable.”

The DWP announcement is the latest phase of reforms brought in as a result of the Sayce Report, which Whitehall mandarins say supports disabled workers being re-integrated with a mainstream workforce.

Union leaders claim only 40 out of 1,200 disabled workers nationally, sacked since August have since found jobs.

Mr Davies added: “There is an alternative. These workers could be put back to work making uniforms for our troops, police and nurses and furniture for our schools, like they did before the work was outsourced to China.”

A DWP spokesman said a wage subsidy of £6,400 was being offered to would-be buyers of the Remploy factories and the £320million disability employment services budget was being protected.

“But we are following the advice of disability expert Liz Sayce, to use the money more effectively to get more disabled people into mainstream jobs —the same as everyone else,” he added.

“All disabled employees affected by the changes will be guaranteed tailored support from an £8million package, including a personal case worker, to help with the transition into mainstream employment.”