Top-level talks on Remploy rescue

Central Fife MP Lindsay Roy, minister for disabled people Esther McVey and Community union shop steward Colin Cuthbert, at Bayview.
Central Fife MP Lindsay Roy, minister for disabled people Esther McVey and Community union shop steward Colin Cuthbert, at Bayview.
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HOPES remain that a buyer may be found to safeguard jobs at Leven’s Remploy factory.

The Minister for Disabled People, Esther McVey, toured the firm’s closure-threatened east of Scotland premises on Monday, including Leven, and said later that securing people’s jobs was the “number one issue”.

There had been expressions of interest in the Leven and Cowdenbeath plants from prospective buyers, she added, and more bidders would be encouraged to come forward.

Transitional funding to help sustain business, however, was ruled out, although other ways of helping the company were discussed.

A factory tour at Banbeath was followed by a meeting at Bayview stadium with Central Fife MP Lindsay Roy, who has been jointly leading a campaign to save the Fife outlets, and Colin Cuthbert, shop steward for the Community union, which represented many of the 29 employees at Leven.

When the threat was debated in the House of Commons, Mr Roy and his colleagues invited Ms McVey to visit Leven and see for herself the high quality of the lifejackets produced there and the outstanding dedication of the workforce.

Mr Cuthbert said he was very grateful for Ms McVey’s visit but disappointed to hear there would be no transitional funding.

Commitment to sustaining jobs for people with disabilities would be part of the criteria for anyone taking over, he added.

Of the mood at the factory, Mr Cuthbert said: “There’s been a black cloud hanging over us and it seems to have been going for a long time.

“We are extremely anxious about what the future is going to be.

“Some would like to see this finalised, but we don’t want to rush things along and end up with a closure when it could have been saved.”

Ms McVey, who faced workers’ questions at the Leven plant, said the declaration period would continue until the end of March.

Offers which were best for the employees would then be taken forward, and knowledge pooled, to get “the best possible outcome”.

Mr Roy said: “I think Esther McVey has seen a very loyal and committed workforce and the potential there is here.”

There was “a greater degree of optimism than before” with the efforts of the politicians, the Scottish Government and other parties to produce a viable rescue package, he added.

Mr Roy, along with former Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Scottish Government Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism, Fergus Ewing, will be meeting Works and Pensions Secretary Ian Duncan Smith in London on February 13 to discuss further possible bids and transitional arrangements.

Mr Roy said: ‘’Remploy Marine Fife has slashed its losses in the past year and we are convinced that, with the right support, it can be a viable business.”