Remploy staff told Springburn site to close

THE Remploy factory in Springburn is to close, with almost 50 disabled staff being made redundant.

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Campaigners fought for months for Remploy to be saved
Campaigners fought for months for Remploy to be saved

Workers at the factory, which manufactures wheelchairs, thought their jobs were saved this summer after Springburn was one of nine Remploy sites not sold off, while the Department for Work and Pensions closed dozens of factories across the UK.

The shock closure announcement came after months of wrangling.

Websters, the firm behind a takeover plan, wanted to reduce staff terms and conditions as part of the sale, leading to strike action at the factory.

Now staff have been told the bidders, who use the name R Link, have pulled out and workers have been given 30 days' notice of redundancy.

MSPs and union leaders, who campaigned for months to save the factory and protect the workers' rights, have been left outraged.

Patricia Ferguson, Labour MSP for Maryhill and Springburn, said: "I am extremely angry at the way people have been treated here. I am still hoping the Scottish Government can do something to help.

"I know it may be asking a lot, but taking over the factory as part of the NHS supply system should be considered. We never expected to be in this situation.

"Esther McVey [Minister for Disabled People], said because there are no other viable bids, Remploy will close, but no-one else was allowed to bid.

"People say that you judge a country by how it treats its most vulnerable. Today's announcement is that test for the Scottish Government."

It is understood that Remploy's customers will be taken over by R Link, with the chairs manufactured by a Glasgow-based social enterprise firm, Haven.

Unions said they have been told Remploy staff can apply for jobs with Haven, but there are no guarantees they will be taken on.

Union leaders are angry at the procedure from start to finish and have serious concerns over the bidding process.

Phil Brannan, senior shop steward at Remploy Springburn, said Websters and R Link wanted the business but not the employees all along.

He said: "We have always had doubts about this when it was Websters.

"Mr Webster was allowed to withdraw and re-apply his business case once the other bidders were ruled out.

"At that point the other two bidders should have been allowed back in to the process."

The UK Government said it would be supporting staff to find work in the mainstream employment market, but Glasgow North MP William Bain said only 35 of the 1000 Remploy staff sacked across the UK have managed to find work.

Ms McVey said in a letter that R Link, a group who had bid for Remploy sites at Chesterfield and Springburn where now not willing to proceed with the Springburn bid.

She said: "As there were no other viable bids for the Springburn factory it will now close.

The Scottish Parliament is due to debate Remploy on Thursday and Ms Ferguson will again ask the Scottish Government to step in and take over the factory.

In September she asked Enterprise Minister Fergus Ewing to act, and it was not ruled out.

Mr Ewing said at that time: "We are straining every sinew to ensure a future for workers in Springburn."

Mr Bain said: "This shock announcement from Esther McVey, the Tory Minister for Disabled People, is a cruel kick in the teeth to the dedicated staff who work in the Springburn factory.

"People will not forgive Tory ministers for raising hopes that the factory had a good long-term future under a new buyer, only to then sack workers today with just 30 days' notice.

"Given that unemployment among the disabled has soared by more than 40,000, and only 35 of the 1000 sacked Remploy workers from these Tory closures have found new jobs, the Minister should back Labour's moratorium on Remploy factory closures.

"It would be unbelievably cruel to throw disabled workers onto the dole just before Christmas."

Enterprise Minister Fergus Ewing said: "I am extremely disappointed that Remploy's Springburn site is closing.

"We had hoped that there would be a positive outcome for workers when R Link was announced as the preferred bidder but unfortunately DWP has confirmed today that the terms of the bid have changed.

"These protracted negotiations have been very stressful for the workers at Springburn and news of the closure will lead to yet more worry for them and their families.

"I understand that discussions are ongoing with another organisation about the possibility of a transfer of assembly work in the future at a different Glasgow site.

"Remploy staff will understandably have many questions about this matter and I will be asking Remploy representatives who will meet stakeholders in Scotland on Thursday to provide answers to those questions.

"The Scottish Government will work with Remploy to help those affected. Local response teams under the Partnership Action for Continuing Employment (PACE) initiative will provide extensive tailored help and support."

stewart.paterson@ eveningtimes.co.uk

MSP PATRICIA FERGUSON

SHOP STEWARD PHIL BRANNAN

MP WILLIAM BAIN

Local government

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