A union has called on the government to save the jobs of thousands of disabled people working in Remploy factories.

Remploy seeks to help increase inclusion in the workplace of people with disabilities and others with significant barriers to work partly by providing them with jobs within its extensive network of UK factories.

The factories produce a wide range of products, from protective clothing for emergency services and military personnel to components for leading car manufacturers, and employ 4,000 people.

However, according to union GMB the factories are under threat of closure when current public funding ends in April 2013, while it also claims that local authorities are avoiding supplying Remploy factories with contracts.

Its figures show that a total of 201 out of 408 councils in Britain do not provide a single public procurement contract to provide work for disabled workers in Remploy factories, even though they are allowed to do so under EU procurement rules.

The south-east have the highest proportion of councils not providing work to Remploy, said GMB.

As a result, the 54 Remploy factories are currently only operating at 50 per cent capacity.

“GMB is calling on all 201 councils that are not taking advantage of the EU rules, that allow them to provide contracts to disabled workers in a sheltered company like Remploy, to get a contract to their local Remploy factory as soon as possible,” said Phil Davies, GMB national secretary.

“It would cost Treasury less to keep the factories operating fully loaded rather than putting the workers out of work on benefits. The majority of Remploy workers who lost their jobs in 2008 are still on welfare three years later.”

As part of its campaign, GMB delivered a 100,000 strong signature petition calling on the government to save Remploy factories to Downing Street this week.