Remploy staff sink pay-off cash into furniture factory ; REDUNDANCY USED TO START UP WORKERS' CO-OPERATIVE [Western Mail (Wales)]
(Western Mail (Wales) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) FACTORY workers in Swansea who lost their jobs when the Remploy site in the city closed have invested their redundancy payments into a workers' co-operative to breathe new life into the premises.
The Remploy site in Fforestfach closed in 2012 as part of a programme of closures of Remploy sites across Wales.
Seven former workers at the site have now invested their redundancy payments into a co-operative to start a furniture manufacturing business with financial help from the Welsh Government's employer support grant scheme.
Production at the site began yesterday under the name of Accommodation Furniture Solutions (AFS) Ltd and the co-operative is looking to expand and offer more ex-Remploy staff the chance to become involved.
Kevin Edwards, the co-operative's managing director, said: "When the Remploy factory closed in 2012 we wanted to ensure that the high quality skills within the workforce weren't lost.
"With this new worker co-operative, we aim to develop a successful and profitable business and become a leading manufacturer and sub-contracting assembler within the UK market.
"As we grow, we intend to operate as a financially viable workers co-operative which supports our disabled and disadvantaged workforce and offers training and employment opportunities to the wider Swansea community."
The Welsh Government's employer support grant scheme offers financial support for employers looking to provide work to eligible disabled Remploy workers.
To date 117 former Remploy workers have found new jobs through the scheme.
The co-operative in Swansea has received approval for its application for employer support grant as well as support through the Communities 2.0 fund for office IT equipment, high end 3D computer aided design and production management software to assist in the start-up.
Welsh Government minister for communities and tackling poverty, Jeff Cuthbert, said: "The UK Government's decision to close Remploy factories was the wrong one for Wales.
"That is why we have worked tirelessly to help all those whose livelihoods were thrown into doubt and support Remploy workers to find new work and opportunities.
"That is why this new cooperative here in Swansea is such good news.
"This is a new beginning for the employees who are behind this venture and I am delighted that the Welsh Government has been able to help this become a reality.
"I wish them all the best for the future and hope to see them go from strength to strength."
The Welsh Government also asked the Wales Co-operative Centre to engage with former Remploy employees to explore opportunities for setting up a business once the factory had closed.
Rhian Edwards is the project manager for the business succession project at the centre and said: "This phoenix company has been made possible by creative and willing collaboration between a number of different partners such as Welsh Government, Wales Co-operative Centre, Collaborative Communities, Communities 2.0, Social Firms Wales, and Unity Trust Bank, as well as Remploy UK to get this project off the ground.
"However, it is the work and commitment that each of the co- operative members has put into the creation of this business that suggests that AFS has a very bright future ahead of it."
Remploy will lease the factory in Swansea to Accommodation Furniture Solutions for six months and has agreed to give a number of assets to the new enterprise.
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