Organisations seeking to buy Remploy factories are having obstacles put in their way by work and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, MPs were told today (Wednesday 13 March).
Unite lead officer for Remploy in Scotland Lyn Turner said that ministers and Remploy’s management displayed “a lack of transparency” when potential bidders for the threatened factories asked for the information needed to make a decision on whether to takeover the sites.
Lyn Turner told the Commons Scottish affairs select committee: “You don’t buy a house without carrying out an initial survey – and the same is true regarding Remploy factories. You can’t expect interested parties to draw up business plans and looks at finance without proper due diligence being performed.”
One of the biggest obstacles to a workers’ bid is the need for ‘financial reserves’. Like most of the secret process, there is no upfront figure, but the assessment panel looks at this in deciding whether to allow a bid go forward.
Prospective buyers are not being given the relevant information. Those bidders, who get an initial indication accepted, will be allowed to view sites. There was also a very short deadline for bids to be made – by 28 March.
In Scotland, there are five factories under threat with about 120 employees – Stirling, Dundee, Clydebank and two in Fife. Lyn Turner described the situation as “heart wrenching”, as the workers, many with disabilities, faced losing their jobs through no fault of their own.
He said: “Last month, I met with Iain Duncan Smith asking him to extend the deadline from 28 March to allow more time for potential buyers to come forward. He point blanked refused.
“We would like the deadline to be extended into the summer and potential buyers to have more time to decide whether they want to takeover 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 Iain Duncan Smith, otherwise hundreds of workers could face the rest of their lives on the dole queue.”
There were originally 54 Remploy factories. In the summer, the government announced that 27 factories would close by the end of 2012 throwing about 1,700 disabled workers out-of-work. A further nine factories faced an uncertain future. The remaining 18 sites were due to close or be sold-off in 2013.
For further information, please contact Lyn Turner on 07980 871394 and/or Unite senior communications officer, Shaun Noble on 07768 693940
Remploy was established in 1945 as part of the new welfare state, providing employment for injured soldiers and today is still a workplace for men and women returning from wars around the world.
Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with 1.5 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.