MSPs expected to call for independent review of DWP programme to close specialised factories for disabled workers (Pictured: Remploy strikers outside Scottish parliament, October 2012)
(Pictured: striking Remploy workers lobby Scottish parliament, October 2012)
Members of the Scottish Parliament are likely to call for an independent review of the closure programme in response to union concerns that a potential bidder to run a specialised wheelchair manufacturing site in Glasgow had been excluded from pursuing a take-over which could have kept more than 40 disabled workers in their jobs.
Labour MSP, Patricia Ferguson – whose constituency includes the Glasgow factory earmarked for closure in January – has also tabled an amendment calling for the creation of a ‘permanent supported workplaces taskforce’, including the Remploy unions – GMB, Unite and community – government economic advisors and social enterprise companies.
The factory is one of the last remaining UK suppliers of wheelchairs to the NHS and is being forced to close despite a lengthy waiting list of people requiring the mobility aids.
Union officials accuse the Department of Work and Pensions of allowing the order book from the Springburn factory to be transferred to another supplier, effectively abandoning the Remploy workers.
Two other Remploy sites, in Edinburgh and Aberdeen have also been shut down as part of the current round of closures.
Scottish TUC general secretary Grahame Smith said: “The STUC is appalled at the decision taken by Esther McVey, UK Minister for Disabled People to axe the Remploy factory in Springburn and place the livelihoods of over 50 disabled people at risk.
“We are demanding that this decision is reversed and a moratorium placed on any further decisions to close Remploy workplaces in Scotland.
“A number of concerns were put to the minister regarding the approach taken to Remploy closures when she attended a meeting of the Remploy Task Force at the Scottish Parliament on the 22 October.
“Despite a commitment to respond to these concerns, nearly six weeks later the Task Force has not had the courtesy of a reply despite a further formal request from Unite to do so.
“The Minister has since taken a unilateral decision to close the plant.
“This is not acceptable and is a shameful way to treat the disabled workers affected, the majority of who will have little or no chance of ever working again.
Unions hope a moratorium on the closure would give the Scottish government and the workers themselves time to investigate options for a sustainable future for the Remploy factories.
They are also calling for ministers to adopt a more proactive policy on procurement, which would allow the Springburn site to continue to supply wheelchairs to the NHS.
The SNP MSP, Christina McKelvie, who chairs the party’s trade union group said: “Successive governments have tried to close Remploy factories and it is disappointing to see the UK Government turn its back on disabled workers in this way.
“This, added with the UK government’s on-going attack on welfare makes it clear that the coalition in Westminster has no interest in supporting those more vulnerable in society.”
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