Remploy Birkenhead - Putting the Record Straight!
It was interesting to note that in recent press articles in the Post and Echo Unite the Union criticised the Works and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith for being silent. I am fully aware that Mr Duncan Smith offered to visit the Birkenhead site on two occasions, and on both his requests was refused. I know this, because I was instrumental in organising the visits
I asked the Secretary of State to come along to the site after I had visited the factory and met with the workers. During my visit to the site we had an open discussion and the entire workforce impressed me. I also met with the Managers and came up with the suggestion that I appeal the decision of closure on two points:
1) Remploy Birkenhead could be reallocated as an automotive sector provider rather than its present allocation as a soft furnishing site, for although it did soft furnishing its main work was for the automotive industry.
2) There had been significant changes within the local automotive sector since the review period had begun. Vauxhall at Ellesmere Port which only a few weeks before had an uncertain future had now been saved and Jaguar was a expanding and creating another 1000 jobs. Therefore there could well be work within the local supply chain allowing me to make a special appeal for the Remploy site.
I immediately wrote to Iain Duncan Smith and Maria Miller - Minister responsible for Remploy - and met with them both asking for the site to be re-designated in order to keep it open and operational, both agreed I had a case for a special appeal.
They asked through me to get a business plan from Remploy in order to demonstrate their ability to meet this re-designation, sadly the Management at the Birkenhead site refused to put such a plan together, even a simple, single page plan, which I asked them to do several times.
I have to say I was taken aback by the reluctance of the Management to support their workers - and I still can't understand why that was. Perhaps the staff should take over the stewardship of Remploy and seek to find new Managers with their same vision, focus and courage and I for one would back them.