Esther McVey MP confirmed that the most important element of any bid to acquire the Remploy businesses in Fife is the continued provision of sustainable employment for people with disabilities.
Remploy is a government owned company that provides employment opportunities for people with disabilities and “complex barriers to work”.
In March 2012, the Government announced its intention to reduce and ultimately withdraw funding for Remploy. 36 factory sites were proposed for closure in phase 1 between March and July 2012 and only 2 of those have survived. Phase 2 of the sales closure process started in January 2013 for the remaining 18 factories.
The Scottish Affairs Committee has been holding a short inquiry into the proposed sale or closure of the two Remploy factories in Fife, at Leven and Cowdenbeath, which make up Remploy Marine Textiles Fife. With the initial deadline for bids looming at the end of March the Committee has taken evidence from Fife Council, Unite and supporters of Remploy, Ian Russell CBE the Chairman of the Board of Remploy and Esther McVey MP, Minister for Disabled People, to explore the wider consequences of the different options for Remploy in Fife.
Lindsay Roy MP, Member of the Committee, said:
“We are pleased that Ian Russell and Fife Council and Remploy have agreed to hold talks, ahead of the initial deadline for bids for the businesses in Fife, to resolve some of the outstanding issues that may have provided a barrier so far to getting the best outcome for everyone involved in this process.
“We know there are three main criteria for any bids for the businesses: sustaining employment and keeping disabled people in work, the financial viability of the business, and the value for money represented by the bid and its conditions. We were very pleased to hear assurances from the Minister and the Chair of Remploy today that the first of these – keeping disabled people in sustainable employment – is the most important.
“There are several ways that this process could play out and it seems that the ideal would be for the businesses to be brought over in their entirety, with transfer of the existing union based pay, benefits and conditions, but at the moment the door is completely open.
It is regrettable that there is no flexibility in the transition arrangements for these businesses but the message for anyone who is interested in acquiring the two Remploy factories in Fife is that it is not too late to put an offer on the table. These factories have a full order book and their product is sold internationally, from Denmark to the United States.
There have been some problems of communication in the process so far but even so there have been 11 expressions of interest, and the deadline for initial bids is next Thursday 28 March. Remploy are now willing to facilitate access to the sites for bidders. Fife Council and Remploy are holding talks to further clarify all the possibilities.”