MPs hear that organisations making “collaborative” bids to run closure-threatened Remploy factories are being refused access to key financial information
MPs have heard that organisations bidding to buy closure-threatened Remploy factories face so many commercial obstacles that is is virtually impossible for them to lodge viable attempts to save the jobs of hundreds of disabled workers.
GMB and Unite campaigners have told the Scottish Affairs Select Committee that a deadline of 28 March for bids to take over Remploy factories in Cowdenbeath (pictured), Leven and Dundee must be extended.
They say this would allow potential bidders to get access to financial information about the three factories which they require to launch social enterprise bids to keep the sites open.
It comes after Remploy workers and supporters in the Midlands last week launched a bid to turn factories in the automotive business into a social enterprise to save the jobs of disabled workers at the agency’s sites in Birmingham, Coventry and Derby.
Campaigners say the specialist Remploy textile factories which remain open in Scotland have a future producing uniforms for the new, single Scottish Police force as well as specialist safety equipment used by North Sea oil and gas workers.
Former GMB national organiser John Moist told MPs: “The [current] bidders for these factories are primarily interested in the assets: the buildings, the machinery.
“Remploy has been managed to fail for the last ten years. No-one [in management] has given a jot about the workers in there.
“Because of that, the [financial] turnover in Remploy has been difficult and that is a serious issue that we have to confront.”
He said campaigners have become exasperated by “the hyperbole versus hypocrisy” from Coalition ministers over the timetable to close Remploy’s remaining factories by September 2013, with the loss of more than 1,000 jobs.
Unions say confidentiality clauses and other conditions enforced by Remploy and the Department of Work and Pensions [DWP] have made it almost impossible to lodge a “collaborative” bid to take over the three factories.
Unite regional officer Lyn Turner said: “We would like the deadline to be extended into the summer and potential buyers to have more time to decide whether they want to take over the factories and run them either as a private business, social enterprise or as a co-operative.
“The obstacles that potential buyers currently face in the bidding process need to be removed immediately by [Work and Pensions Secretary] Iain Duncan Smith, otherwise hundreds of workers could face the rest of their lives on the dole queue.”
The Scottish Affairs Committee says it now intends to ask the Remploy board and the Disabilities Minister Esther McVey to give evidence to the inquiry.
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