Remploy (United Kingdom Government Response)

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 22nd March 2012.

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Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

I agree very much with Mark McDonald. I will come to that a little later in my speech.

In RSBI, in my constituency, those who have returned from Afghanistan and Iraq with disabling illness or injury are given support and training to re-equip them for the world of work. However, today’s success at RSBI required financial investment. It required support and imagination from the management and—importantly—a commitment to go out and look for work. Gordon MacDonald is correct in saying that that is something that Remploy signally fails to do. I know, from press reports, that the First Minister recently visited RSBI and was very impressed by it—who would not be? That is the kind of model that we should be looking at if we are serious about the future of Remploy.

The Scottish Government has indicated that the PACE process could be rolled out to assist Remploy workers. That is very welcome, but we hope that the Scottish Government can go further. The Labour amendment is a sincere suggestion to the Scottish Government about an alternative model that we think can work—a model that gives the community the chance to take control of the situation and which provides sustainable employment for the workforce. We also hope that the Scottish Government will consider carefully how it can further encourage Government agencies and non-departmental public bodies actively to seek opportunities to increase the use of article 19 in their procurement practices. We very much hope that the Scottish Government can support those proposals, and we would be happy to work with the Government, the trade unions and the workers at Remploy to try to secure the future of those workers.

Senior directors of Remploy’s enterprise businesses met the lead officers of the GMB and Unite on Monday and indicated that the first redundancy could take place as early as 4 July, in spite of an accord that promises that voluntary redundancies should be sought before compulsory ones are made. Also, no consideration has been given to how the workers’ pension rights will be protected—at least, that has not been explained to the workers. As on so many other issues, no information has been provided on that.

Mark McDonald is right: the timeframe that has been identified is wrong and gives no opportunity for a meaningful dialogue with Remploy. That is one reason why we look to the Scottish Government for assistance. What is happening is a redundancy process, not a genuine consultation.

I will not argue with Clare Adamson about the history of support for Remploy, but I say to her that we sincerely hope that, at 5 o’clock, our parties can join together with anyone else who wishes to come with us to show our support for the Remploy workers. It ill behoves the Parliament not to be united when we are all here to try to support those workers.

I genuinely hope that the Government party will join us in considering a modest suggestion of a way forward for the Remploy workers. If we really care about what is in the workers’ best interests, the SNP will vote for Labour’s amendment.