By a Newsnet reporter
SNP MSP Mark McDonald has condemned as “disgraceful” comments made by Iain Duncan Smith regarding Remploy after yesterday’s Sunday Express reported that the Work and Pensions Secretary accused Remploy employees of “not doing any work at all” and “just making cups of coffee”.
The UK coalition Minister told the disabled employees to go out and try for a “proper job”, despite the fact that unemployment is at a 17 year high.
Mr Duncan Smith made the remarks as he took delivery of a “Save Remploy” petition signed by 15,000 supporters of Remploy employees. The petition had been organised by the Sunday Express newspaper.
Remploy employs around 300 people in Scotland, and the UK Government has announced plans to close 4 of the 9 Scottish factories – in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Wishaw and Springburn.
Remploy workers Mark Holloway and Julie Haynes from the Barking factory were awaiting for the minister as he came out of a function. Insisting that the closure programme would go ahead, Mr Duncan Smith said:
“Is it a kindness to stick people in some factory where they are not doing any work at all? Just making cups of coffee?
“I promise you this [the closure programme] is better. Taking this decision was a balance between how much do I want to spend keeping a number of people in Remploy factories not producing stuff versus getting people into proper jobs.”
A shocked Ms Haynes interjected: “We work in our factories!”
Mr Duncan Smith derisively replied: “You don’t produce very much at all.”
Asked by an Express journalist why disabled workers were being robbed of a choice between a segregated or mainstream workplace, Mr Duncan Smith angrily retorted: “How far do you want to go with the idea that you can choose to do exactly what you want?”
The minister said he would look at any viable plan to keep open the 18 Remploy factories which have been slated for closure, and would consider extending the 90-day consultation period.
He warned, however: “The reality is for those that are not viable it does not make any sense at all keeping people sitting not doing anything.”
Mr McDonald, MSP for North East Scotland, said:
“These are disgraceful, insensitive remarks and Iain Duncan Smith should apologise.
“It’s bad enough that the Tories are forcing these factories to close, but to then insult the work that the employees do beggars belief.
“The Tories just don’t get Scotland. We have strong social enterprise networks north of the border, and the work being done in Aberdeen Remploy could be providing a blueprint for the future. Instead the Tories are pulling the rug out from under the business.
“They only have to look at the way Glencraft in Aberdeen has been re-opened thanks to a team effort from across the public and private sector.
“The Tories are clearly oblivious to the work being done by Remploy in Aberdeen to develop a social enterprise hub. It is vital they come to visit the Aberdeen site because they are basing their closure plans on flawed assumptions.”
“Iain Duncan Smith’s comments were heartless and totally unnecessary.”
Mr McDonald, together with Aberdeen MSPs Maureen Watt and Kevin Stewart had previously invited Maria Miller – Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions – to Aberdeen to see the work being done to develop a strong social enterprise hub at the factory site. To date, this invitation has been snubbed.