Government justifies new Remploy closures. Public doesn’t believe a word of it.

Fight for dignity: When the government announced in March last year that 36 Remploy factories would close, unions campaigned alongside workers in a bid to help them maintain the dignity they keep by holding a job and paying their way.

Fight for dignity: When the government announced in March last year that 36 Remploy factories would close, unions campaigned alongside workers in a bid to help them maintain the dignity they keep by holding a job and paying their way.

Today we learned that the last remaining Remploy factories in Scotland are to close, in what I can’t help thinking is a last act of spite by the Conservatives against disabled people living north of the border.

Employees at the Marine and Frontline Textile factories at Leven, Cowdenbeath, Stirling, Dundee and Clydebank will be thrown onto the dole, albeit with help from the government’s funded package to help them get into mainstream employment.

We have no idea how well this package works, despite its having been in use since March last year, when Maria Miller announced the government was closing 36 of what were then 54 Remploy factories. A BBC article in May stated that the DWP was “aware of” 351 former employees who have found new jobs – fewer than a third of the laid-off workforce. We don’t know whether any of those jobs were a result of help from the government package.

Also facing the dole are disabled workers at Packaging factories in Norwich, Portsmouth, Burnley and Sunderland, bringing the total number of job losses up to 234.

Employees were well aware of the situation – an announcement before Christmas made it clear that 875 jobs were at risk, on top of the 1,700 axed in March last year, with only an automotive business and (ironically) employment services remaining safe.

The Frontline and Packaging factories were slated for closure then, and the marine textiles business was described at the time as making “significant losses” despite an established market position. It was not considered sellable as a going concern.

It was, therefore, surprising to hear Esther McVey say, in a statement today, that there had been “considerable interest” in the Scottish factories.

She went on to say Remploy “did not receive a Best and Final Offer for these businesses as part of the commercial process”. Why not?

And she added that there were no viable bids for Packaging. This implies that there were bids, and begs the question: What was wrong with them?

Also, on the day the government announced new help for businesses considering a change to employee-ownership or co-operative status, was this never considered for the Remploy factories? If not, why not?

That question becomes urgent when one considers the following, again from Ms McVey’s speech: “Businesses like textiles which didn’t have commercial interest and closed afterwards re-opened as social enterprises or new businesses, and in fact nine sites have been sold on that basis. This has resulted in employment opportunities for original employees.

“For example, businesses have opened under new ownership in the Bolton and Wigan factory premises, who are looking to create up to 35 job opportunities for disabled people, including former Remploy employees.

“In addition Remploy have confirmed already they have received an asset bid from a Social Enterprise organisation for the purchase of assets from within the Textiles business. This may have the potential to create employment opportunities for disabled people.”

If that is the case, they why has the government not considered restructuring the businesses along these lines, and leaving them to the employees – to manage as they will?

After all, according to the same government which is planning to close these factories without having considered this way forward for them, “Employee-owned businesses enjoy greater staff retention, innovation and motivation than non-employee owned businesses and, in turn, these deliver wider economic benefits including increased productivity, profitability and more resilience to economic shocks”.

All of the above makes it very hard to believe another statement made by Ms McVey: “We have always made it clear that this is about supporting the individuals in the factories, and disabled people across the country. £50 million was going into funding failing factories which meant £50 million not available to support disabled people across the country.”

Unfortunately for her, we know that this government has been cutting support for the disabled, partly by refusing them benefits, pretending that they are lying or deluded about their disabilities.

And her claim that, “As announced in the Spending Review, the Government further committed to continuing to support disabled people to move into, remain in, and progress in work” rings hollow when one considers the appalling result of the government’s work programme for people on Employment and Support Allowance.

It managed to hit only one-third of its target. Only 5.5 per cent of people on ESA were moved into employment via the work programme, compared with an expectation that 15 per cent of them would have, if they had been left to their own devices (the targets are based on numbers of people who would otherwise get work, plus 10 per cent. The work programme’s result – 5.5 per cent – is significantly lower than its target of 16.5 per cent).

All of this, coupled with the possibility of Scotland seceding from the Union after next year’s referendum, points to the possibility that the Conservatives are using Remploy as one last, great act of spite for our cousins north of the border.

I would just like to make it clear that this has nothing to do with me. I neither support nor condone it and I think more could have been done to find a fruitful way forward.

Scottish people always saw through the Conservatives – look at the way they reacted to the imposition of the Poll Tax, back in 1989 or thereabouts.

I fear for the rest of the UK if we should lose that perspective after the referendum.

17 thoughts on “Government justifies new Remploy closures. Public doesn’t believe a word of it.

  1. wrjones2012

    As a former worker at Remploy Wrexham many moons ago now I was very saddened to hear of the original closure programme given under the figleaf of spending money to support disabled workers into mainstream employment.It doesn’t appear to have happened locally.I know of at least one young man yet to find another job who lives in the same village as I do.

  2. jaypot2012

    I have to say that I am disgusted, but not surprised that the government are closing the Scottish remploy factories as spite.
    I live in Scotland and listening to the people about conservatives is hysterical as well as being the absolute truth.
    I am not Scottish, I am English and spent most of my life in England, then 20 years in North Wales and now here for ever. I have seen such a difference in the “countries that make up the UK (excepting Northern Ireland), and can honestly say that I would never live in England again and think that they are getting the worst of the deal! Wales and Scotland share some of the benefits for being devolved but we truly need to be completely cut off from Westminster as they are dragging us down.
    I support the YES campaign for Scotland and really hope that we get to leave England behind us. It’s been proved time and time again that Scotland is the richer country but the media likes to tell things differently so as not to shame the coalition.
    In Scotland they are doing their damned best to look after the disabled and long term sick, as well as the unemployed and the working poor. We have lost so much income from Westminster this year that cuts are having to be made between libraries (which all people need) and meals on wheels – community centres and care in the community etc.
    I know how hard they are working to keep things open for disabled people as I am one of them and I know that they would try and do anything for anyone if they could.

    1. Mike Sivier

      Just to clarify that I’m not saying it’s a definite fact that the government is closing the factories out of spite; it just seems that way to me.

      As for what happens if Scotland does break away from the Union, I can foresee a situation – not too many years away – when Wales might decide to do the same, in order to form a confederacy of some kind with Scotland. Personally I’d quite like that.

  3. Troy

    After 6 months at Remploy, I took the option of an extra 3 months, since they were so committed to getting me into work. Would you believe I was still there after almost 2 years, because the funding is less important to them than success for their clients. There are health issues which make employers disregard me, but it isn’t for want of effort on the part of me or Remploy. Why can’t the government leave those alone who are doing the very best they can?

    1. Mike Sivier

      You’ll be talking about the employment services part of Remploy there; that will continue and is unaffected by the new cuts. It’s the factories that are being closed.

      1. Troy

        They don’t have a clear distinction, Mike. The staff interchange between working in the factories and in the employment services. So, when factories close, the overall number of Remploy staff is also reduced. I just wanted to point out that they are not like those others who park the disabled. They really do care. They are more like Social Workers than Employment Advisors. And it’s a crying shame for them, as well as for their disabled customers.

  4. hilary772013

    Mike! I have only recently become interested in politics or should I say interested in what is happening in our country. I have been writing to my MP on numerous occasions & UKSA regarding false statistics (LYING) by IDS & the PM..and now this. I have also previously asked my MP why when they say “they want to get the disabled back into work are they stopping funding for Remploy”.. My MP is a Tory and has not given me any answers (no surprise there)

    Can I ask “has all this deceit and the misuse/abuse of statistics been going on under previous governments” and I have just not been aware of it? or is this just a phenomenon of our present government.

    The only things this government seem to excel at are lying and being deceitful. If Scotland do get Independence, I have told my husband we are moving to Scotland as his family live there, this is because I fear if we lose the Scottish votes the Tories will get back in and I don’t think I could live through another term of them in power & the country couldn’t either. So so sad.

    1. Mike Sivier

      I only became interested enough in politics to write about it after the 2010 election, so I’m not entirely qualified to answer your question about previous deceptions.

      However, can YOU think of any other time when a previous government was criticised by an independent statistic-compiling organisation for misuse of the figures? I can’t, which suggests it was either unknown or an extreme rarity. Now it happens every week or so.

  5. Edward Melville

    Scotland has always had that strength of heart , to stand up that is right…we british have for so long been beaten down, suppressed.and other nasty things done to us. And yet all we do is put iur head in the sand, with the knowledge that nothing going tohappen to me personally. Yet when it does we british just moan to the MP whom are doing the damage to us as a nation expecting help. While they go way and claim their expenses for their arrogance.

  6. Michelle bajda

    If the money they are throwing at the work programme was given to remploy maybe they would be able to stay afloat….

  7. Joan

    I sometimes feel very frustrated at all the folks who are writing to their MPs asking them to vote for/against this or that, and actually getting responses. I am unfortunate enough to have Michael Moore as my MP, a situation that I was happy with until the coalition. Now, every time I write to him he seems to have some excuse to not follow up. Usually he says that because he is a cabinet minister he is not allowed but I doubt if he would go against this lot even if he could. As a Scot, and Minister of State to boot, he should be ashamed for letting his pals get away with this. If Scotland does vote Yes, please can England keep him?

  8. beastrabban

    I first heard about the closure of the Remploy factories from a friend of mine, who is a former Conservative councillor. He was absolutely disgusted with it.

    As for Scotland and the welfare services, the Scots always did place a very high premium on their health service. The creation of the NHS had little effect on Scotland as many parts of Scotland had already taken over their hospitals and clinics.

    Jaypot’s comments as an Englishman living in Scotland, who wants independence because of the greater welfare provision north of the border is very interesting. There was an interview in one of the Science Fiction magazines a few years ago with the two Scots SF authors, China Mieville and Ian M. Banks. One or both of them said that they voted SNP, not because they wanted independence, but because they supported greater welfare provision than governing New Labour administration.

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