SIPTU has strongly criticised the disability support organisation Rehab for making 37 employees in Limerick, most of whom are disabled, redundant on reduced redundancy terms.
The workers at the Rehab Enterprises operation in Raheen, Limerick were served with a 30-day consultation notice on Tuesday.
SIPTU official Jim Fuery noted that most were earning the minimum wage of €10.20 per hour, 75% of which was subsidised under the long-standing Disability Wage Subsidy Scheme.
Under a previous agreement, redundant workers in Rehab were entitled to a package of two weeks' statutory redundancy, plus four weeks’ ex gratia with no cap on the final amount.
However, he said management had told staff that the Rehab Group Board had decided to unilaterally reduce the redundancy package to just two weeks’ statutory and two weeks’ ex gratia per year of service capped at one year's salary.
Mr Fuery noted that last December, Rehab had also closed its "Smiles" newsagent outlets without an agreement on redundancy terms, and said that this matter is awaiting a Labour Court hearing
"Our members are among the most vulnerable people in society and are now faced with the loss of their employment in the middle of a pandemic," Mr Fuery said.
He added that even if the operation were not viable, the least the employer could do would be to give people the previously agreed redundancy package.
A spokesperson for Rehab confirmed that Rehab Enterprises Ltd, a division of the Rehab Group, which provides full and part-time employment to people with disabilities, had begun a redundancy consultation process with 37 of its staff at its Rehab Logistics facility in Raheen Business Park.
Rehab noted that the business, which has been loss-making for a number of years, suffered a further deterioration of its finances due to the pandemic, which had led to the factory closing for a number of months during 2020.
"It is currently operating at a significantly reduced capacity which has further impacted margins," the spokesperson said.
"We have made every effort in recent years to identify alternative business opportunities and to adapt our business model in Raheen, unfortunately, this was not successful, and we are at a stage where the business is now no longer viable."
Sources said any redundancy paid will be reflective of financial situation in which the company finds itself.
It said Rehab Enterprises Ltd had been providing its customers with bespoke electrical assembly items and a small fulfilment service since the 1990s.
It defended the supports offered to workers facing redundancy, saying it had appointed a designated team to support employees in trying to develop individual pathways to "map out their futures", as well as engaging with other potential employers and exploring training opportunities for those affected by the closure.
It will also be liaising with Government departments to fast-track benefits and social welfare supports.
Launched in 1994, Rehab Enterprises is Ireland's largest single employer of people with disabilities and works with a range of public and private sector organisation to provide sustainable employment in businesses based in Ireland.
The Rehab Group employs around 3,000 people.
Additional reporting Cathy Halloran