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the adviser takes time to explain the content
As Mr Precious had not decided what option to take, the adviser did not offer the handbook as a matter of course.
As he did not know what the options were he could hardly decide which one to take, yet the company says, You dont get it until you decide on the options, but we are not telling you what the options are until you decide. What kind of farce is this?
I understand that after my officials had spoken to the company, Mr Precious has been provided with information regarding placements and separate information regarding voluntary redundancy that is normally provided when employees have made their decision.
Apart from Mr. Phil Davies of the GMB, another person comes out with credit, although unfortunately it will probably condemn his career: Mr. Paul Warren, the Ministers assistant. At my instigation, he promptly took up the matter, although he took some persuading
to start with. At my insistence, he spoke with Mr. Precious and realised that we had a problem and something needed to be done about itso he did it. However, having thanked him for doing that, I must ask why nothing was done before. The situation had gone on for two and a half years. The exasperation is almost incontrollable.
I am writing to you on behalf of my colleagues and myself to thank you for the help you gave us... I am sure that you will be pleased to know that this information has been very useful in helping a number of people make their final decision
concerning remaining with Remploy or taking Voluntary Redundancy.
I wrote to the Minister alerting her to the ludicrous situation in which people have had to go to that extent and commending Mr. Warren on his behaviour. I have asked Rowland Precious to let me have a copy of the Ministers reply to his letter of 20 Februarywhen the reply arrives.
Hi Frank I have just received your letter dated 25th February 2008 which also contained the reply from Ann McGuire MP, Minister for Disabled People to your letter... This letter was unfortunately very unhelpful
as it did not answer the questions which were asked, It was also not entirely factually correct as a large number of people at Stockton factory asked for this information and were refused it, It was only after repeated refusals that I as UNION REPRESENTATIVE then asked for the information. It is also a fact that one of the workers in our factory who had already signed the required document
after making his choice was then refused this information.
This information was only given after a request was made from the Private Secretary of Ann McGuire, Minister for the Disabled.
I would also like to pass on to you some further information which has come to my attention namely that Spennymoor factory
which is to remain open but where the workforce had been offered voluntary redundancy had 66 per cent. of the workforce who were willing to take up this option. This meant that some of these workers will have to be forced to remain to maintain manning levels. This is further evidence that the whole of the modernization program has been badly organized and even more evidence is available in that Wisbech factory which was to remain open is now to be closed as everyone at the factory has either requested voluntary redundancy or early retirement. This is a ridiculous state of affairs when Stockton where the workforce wish to remain is being closed,
In my letter to Ann McGuire MP, Minister for Disabled People I pointed out that Peter Hain while still Minister for Work and Pensions stated in his Remploy factory closure announcement that for those disabled workers who required sheltered employment this would be made available for them. Could I point out that yesterday 26th February 2008 the Stockton Disabled Employment
Advisors came to visit our factory and when I asked them what sheltered disabled employment was available they stated that at this time there was none available in the Teesside area.
Please note that the Hartlepool factory is also due to close,
I believe very strongly that there is still a need for sheltered disabled employment in the Teesside area and that it would be feasible to set up a small sheltered workshop either by Government funding or a Stockton Council run scheme. This would be on a non profit making basis
but without the very large expenditure which Remploy spends on wages and other perks
for the senior management this workshop with government procurement work guaranteed could be made to break even.
The work force were so upset about that situation that they were naturally easy prey for the media, so I went along to try to help them make sense of itfor obvious reasons. I did not want the situation to be exaggerated, but I found it impossible to ameliorate it.
I received a letter on 7th March
2008 stating that my last working day was 6th March
and that I should not turn up for work on the following Monday. This disgraceful treatment meant that I was not even given the chance to say good-bye to my work mates. The letter was sent dated the 6th March 2008 and my Manager was not even aware that I had
Could I point out that many of the jobs posted on our work notice boards (Jobs in mainstream employment)
are already taken or are unsuitable for disabled workers. (LGV Drivers, Crane Drivers, Press Brake Operators And MIG Welders).
Many of these jobs are unsuitable for disabled workers due to their age and types of disability. There is clearly still a need for some form of sheltered employment, in the Stockton area, for vulnerable disabled workers.
In conclusion could I say that Remploy Senior management claim that they understand the needs of disabled workers, but the dreadful recent treatment proves that this is simply not true. It is very clear that to move forward then change at the top of Remploy is clearly urgently needed.
The next statement is from David Rock: 50 years old, length of service 30 and a half years, which is longer than I have been in Parliament, and that goes back a long time, as you well know, Mr. Atkinson. Mr. Rock says:
Originally I was very happy to stay on Remploys books and transfer to Remploy Employment Services. I have been the Union Learning Rep, at the Stockton site, for the past 5 years and I have successfully managed the Learning Centre with the help of lecturers from Stockton Riverside College.
As I have a very good working relationship with Stockton Riverside College, I was very interested in taking on voluntary work and training courses, at the College, hoping that this would lead to a full time job in Adult Education, whilst effectively looking for work. It was my understanding that doing training courses, voluntary work and effectively looking for work coincided with the Remploy Employment Services criteria.
The working week ending 6th March 2008, I discovered that this was not the case, at midday on Thursday 6th March 2008 I reluctantly signed for Voluntary Redundancy and I was the last employee at the Stockton site to do so. To my surprise on Saturday 8th March 2008, I received a letter in the post from Mr Waterhouse
Director of Contract Services, Dated 7th March 2008 advising me that my last working day at Remploy will be 6th March 2008.
I am disgusted with the disgraceful treatment, by Remploy, towards disabled people.
Remploy says whether I stay with Remploy or not they will help me find work. The only jobs Remploy have found people have been less than 35hrs so where are all these jobs coming from? No one from here, Remploy Stockton, has found work yet. There are not many jobs out there for able-bodied people, so what chance have we got? There was 1-week notice given to anyone who left the company.
Employees have now been asked to work up to 6 weeks of the 12 weeks in lieu because the company decided 12 weeks in lieu starts when most people have finished. This means that the people working extra time will lose up to £1500.
I need to think about that final paragraph, because I do not follow it myself. What I do follow, however, is that there has been an atrocious record of mismanagement and a dismissive attitude, and it has gone on for two and a half years. It is not just the management. It is not just that they have taken the easy way out, or that they are outsourcing work to countries in eastern Europe; it is that the Department, with the exception of Mr. Warren, who responded to my telephone call, has manifestly failed to monitor what the management were doing and to assess their failure to fulfil their responsibilities. In other words, the Department has failed to conduct its duties with due care and attention.
It is my intention to see that there is a memorial Remploy debate every year to remind every Minister that they cannot just allow things to go on behind their backs in spite of what they say ought to go on. Things must be checked. Simply issuing an instruction is not sufficient; any sergeant-major could tell us that. It is not just a question of issuing an instruction, but of ensuring that the instruction is carried out responsibly and faithfully. That has not happened in the case of Remploy, which is an absolute disgrace.
Annette Brooke (Mid-Dorset and North Poole) (LD):
May I start by congratulating the hon. Member for Stockton, North (Frank Cook) on securing this debate
today and on reminding us in such a moving way that we are talking about vulnerable people who are not being treated very well?
I want to make a brief contribution to the debate and refer to the Remploy factory in my constituency in Poole. It seemed that we had received good news on that factory, because it was proposed for closure and was then reprieved, but it lost its product, which was a marine product. Bearing in mind that we have the headquarters of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution in Poole, that we are a major sailing centre and that we are very close to Southampton, we could have secured extra orders from within the vicinity to keep the factory producing that same product.
We have been told that there must be a new product in the factory, so what is happening now? The answer is that machinery is being taken away. I am pleased that there is another factory that will be taking on board the orders and that some Remploy employees in Scotland will keep their jobs, but the employees in the Poole factory are seeing, day by day, the machinery being taken away and realising that they will not have orders. There are set dates when the existing orders will just come to an end. The employees in the Poole factory are being offered increased redundancy pay. What should people do in those circumstances? There is uncertainty and bewilderment among the employees, because they do not know what the new product will be and because the factory is being run down. Surely we need to treat people better than that.
I agree with the earlier point that redundancy was not the right option for some Remploy employees, who will sit behind closed doors and not socialiseperhaps they will be tempted into alcohol abuse or all sorts of other problems. We have a responsibility here, and I join the hon. Member for Stockton, North in asking what type of management is that? If management are promising a new product, should they run down their factory and reduce the work force to only 16 to 20 people, who still do not know what the new product is?
I recently met the new employee at the Poole factory who will be responsible for public procurement, and the meeting was positiveI liked his approach. I went into that meeting wholeheartedly. I have dutifully written to all the leading people in the town who can form my champions group. I want to lead that group with enthusiasm and vision, but I cannot do so until I have received some answers to my questions. The existing situation in the factory must be stabilised while we search for the new product. Talking vaguely about scanning, which is the only example of a new product or new service that I have heard so far, is a long way removed from the skilled techniques required to work on machines that are used to make lifejackets and so on.
As the Minister will recall, I had a vision for the Poole site. The site is large, and I am not averse to half of it being sold to reinvest in a centre of excellence for training the disabled. I realise that we need to change over time, but I want to protect the existing vulnerable work force in Poole. I want to see short-term work in a work situation, the provision of IT suites and the creation of something positive, but others have not developed such a vision.
The concern that the hon. Lady has expressed is important, but it is not only disabled folk in factories whom we must consider. What does she think
about disabled people returning from Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo and other such places who will need that kind of engagement, while the factories that could accommodate them are being closed?
Annette Brooke: I thank the hon. Gentleman for that comment. As the Minister knows, it is part of my vision to have a training centre for the 21st century, which will have IT suites alongside basic work disciplines. We have to move on, and the returning troops who are disabled will probably be looking for jobs in IT rather than for jobs using sewing machines and so on. We must manage the process properly.
I have a question for the Minister: is this process slow death by poison, or can we turn the situation around and deliver the vision, which will benefit Dorset, support the many people on incapacity benefit who need to get into work and, most importantly, help the vulnerable people in the Poole factory, who need adequate support? I agree with the hon. Member for Stockton, North, that creating uncertainty and bewilderment through appalling management of the transition from one product to another is not the way to treat people.
Mr. Roger Williams (Brecon and Radnorshire) (LD): It is a great pleasure to take part in this debate, although the subject is very serious and very sad. I also apologise for being slightly late in attending today. I congratulate the hon. Member for Stockton, North (Frank Cook) on securing the debate. I, too, will home in on the situation in my own constituency, rather than discussing Remploy in general.
There has been a Remploy factory in my constituency in Ystradgynlais for many years. Ystradgynlais is a rather deprived part of Wales, at the top of the Swansea valley, and indeed all the communities at the top of the south Wales valleys feel themselves to be at a disadvantage, because they are far away from the more economically active parts of Wales in the south-east around Cardiff, Swansea and the M4 corridor.
The factory in Ystradgynlais has also been linked with the factory in Brynamman in the neighbouring constituency of Carmarthen, East and Dinefwr. The hon. Member for Carmarthen, East and Dinefwr (Adam Price) has been working with me and a range of organisations to see whether we can secure a Remploy presence in the local area, because the factories in Ystradgynlais and in Brynamman have both been earmarked for closure.
The employees in those factories were aware that they had to move with the times and that they had to be as productive and as profitable as possible. They realised that the best way to do that was to bring the two operations on to one site. I have not corresponded with Remploy for some time, but, unfortunately, I do not believe that that merger will be possible, yet the two sets of workers were prepared to make sacrifices and to work together. Indeed, not only were the employees in both factories prepared to work together, but so were the local authorities, the trade unions and all the voluntary organisations that had an interest in Remploy.
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