We will fight to the end, vows Remploy workforce

MP Lindsay Roy, left, with union representative Colin Cuthbert
MP Lindsay Roy, left, with union representative Colin Cuthbert

GUTTED staff at Leven’s Remploy are struggling to come to terms with the final-blow announcement of the factory’s closure.

Speaking to the Mail, union representative Colin Cuthbert said the workforce of 30 disabled people met the news with stunned silence.

But, despite the UK government’s decision to offload Remploy, Mr Cuthbert vowed the fight to save the Leven branch was far from over.

He said: “I would say the staff were shocked, especially those who have worked here for such a long time.

“They went very, very quiet. After the weekend, people were asking what does this mean? Now there’s anger and bitterness.”

Mr Cuthbert, who represents the Community Union, added: “I was very disappointed and the timing I thought was particularly cruel.

“When the expected autumn decision gave way to winter we thought, well, let’s forget about it until after Christmas. As soon as we let our guard down, the blow came.”

As part of the second phase of the Sayce Review, the Department of Work and Pensions earmarked Leven for closure.

The review was prompted by the fact 54 Remploy factories across the UK were subsidised by the government by over £110m a year.

However, last year Remploy in Leven manufactured 1000 life jackets every week and the year before, achieved sales topping £1.2 million.

Mr Cuthbert explained: “The government told us we had a good business, a good product and a good customer base, but the losses we were sustaining were too high.

“We admit we are making losses but we also believe Remploy was more than pounds, shillings and pence.

“We’ve had lots of trainees coming through our doors for two-month work experience placements who have then gone back into work.”

Mr Cuthbert believes the company could be operated on a profitable basis.

“If we were able to sell all our products directly to government departments, such as coastguards and fire brigades, we could potentially make a profit,” he explained.

“As a last-ditch attempt, I’ve written to Alex Salmond and asked him to meet with us as a matter of urgency. I think we could be saved through public procurement.”

The closure announcement will be followed by a 90-day consultation and then an individual one-to-one staff 30-day consultation.

“I believe that, if there’s no change, we will be closed by mid April,” said Mr Cuthbert.

“We are not going to give up, even though the future is not looking good for us. We will keep fighting until the doors close behind us.”

MP Lindsay Roy said the decision had been a “kick in the teeth” to disabled workers.

He added: “It’s heartbreaking that, of the Remploy factories closed in the summer, only three per cent of the workforce are now in employment and this Government wants people to come off benefits and into work.”