IT has been discovered that Remploy Healthcare struck a deal with R Healthcare in July 2011 that saw the company take control of the majority of the business.
By David Clegg 28 Nov 2012 07:44
A SECRET deal signed more than a year ago sealed the fate of disabled workers at a doomed factory, the Daily Record can reveal.
There was fury earlier this week as almost 50 staff at Remploy were thrown on the scrapheap after a failed battle to save their jobs.
But an investigation by this newspaper has found a private firm, now set to cash in on the Scottish factory’s closure, were handed the majority of the business last year.
Our findings raise serious questions about the takeover and will raise pressure on the UK Government to order an urgent probe.
We have established that Remploy Healthcare entered into a deal with R Healthcare in July 2011 to take over the “front end” of the business.
Factory workers last night said it was this move that laid the ground work for the privatisation and closure of the factory.
Until now, the details of the contract have been kept secret under commercial confidentiality laws.
But Remploy last night admitted it involved “the sales, marketing and distribution of Remploy’s healthcare products”. They said it was designed to “continue and safeguard Remploy’s healthcare business” but would not reveal who had made the decision to sign it.
Business sources say the terms made it virtually impossible for any other firm to take over the factory once the UK Government’s Department for Work and Pensions decided to pull out.
Union leaders claimed the signing of the deal “sold the disabled workforce down the river” and led to the factory’s closure.
The Record revealed yesterday that Middlesbrough businessman Colin Scarsi wanted to buy the factory and save the jobs but had his bid blocked after raising concerns.
R Healthcare were instead made the preferred bidder for Remploy Healthcare, who make wheelchairs in Springburn, Glasgow, and shoes in Chesterfield, England.
But the private firm have decided to close the Springburn base and axe all the employees. The Chesterfield plant is to remain open.
Now the firm are planning to keep Remploy’s wheelchair order book and benefit from the business – after dumping all the workers.
The Springburn staff are angry at the “unfair advantage” given to R Healthcare by the July 2011 deal.
They believe other firms would have been interested in the factory if R Healthcare had not already been contracted for so much of the work.
“The signing of that agreement was the moment we were sold down the river,” said GMB union factory shop steward Phil Brannan. “It was that deal which laid the groundwork for the privatisation of Remploy.
“The terms were such that it was a deal-breaker for anyone else who was looking at buying the firm.
“The process has been corrupt and a betrayal of the disabled workers who made this factory what it is.”
Politicians last night renewed their calls for an independent probe.
Bob Doris MSP said:
“The entire handling of this process has been shambolic from day one. The Westminster Government have serious questions to answer over their abject failure to find a solution that will protect jobs at Remploy Springburn.
“We need answers on why this process has gone so disastrously wrong with such damaging consequences and, after today’s revelations, only an independent inquiry will provide those answers.
“The process has seen the Government wash their hands of any responsibility towards workers at Remploy.
“That is simply not good enough. Jobs could and should have been saved and the least workers at Remploy deserve is for the entire closure process to be put on hold until an inquiry is held.”
Meanwhile, R Healthcare chairman Simon Webster said he was in talks with Glasgow social enterprise firm Haven about “despatch work of wheelchairs”.
He added: “R Healthcare have chosen Haven as their European distribution partner.”
Webster said the move would create nine jobs and ex-Remploy staff may be offered work.
The DWP said they were “satisfied” the takeover process has been “robust and transparent”.