The sharp disparity between jobs and joblessness was highlighted this week in Springburn. A government announcement on Wednesday said Remploy’s Springburn factory will close with the loss of 46 jobs of which 43 are held by people with disabilities.
On Friday, Scotland’s First Minister visited the nearby manufacturing base of Royal Strathclyde Blindcraft’s (RSBi) to pay tribute to its 240 award winning staff – of whom more than half have a disability.
The two establishments are within a five minute drive of each other.
On his visit, First Minister Alex Salmond said: ‘Jobs are this government’s top priority, and a major part of that is investing in workforce training and development.
Employers, workers, union and communities working in partnership with government to promote workplace learning, benefits all of us – which is why it’s so important to recognise achievements like those of the STUC award winners at Royal Strathclyde Blindcraft Industries here in Darnick Street, Springburn.’
He went on: ‘Scottish Union Learning is supported financially by the Scottish Government and I’m proud of what our efforts are helping to achieve. But of course, the real credit lies with the staff here who work so hard to develop not only their own personal potential but the effectiveness of their teams. Each and every one of them has my very best wishes.’
RSBi is operated by City Building, Glasgow City Council’s arm’s-length construction firm.
City Building managing director John Foley said: ‘The First Minister’s visit today is recognition of the great job our staff are doing every day at RSBi, producing quality products for the public, private and third sectors. RSBi is a commercially successful organisation because we continue to adapt our product range to suit the evolving needs of our customers. That’s why we can employ 240 people. RSBi is not run as a charity but as a thriving social enterprise.’
Community Union – the largest trade union within RSBi – provides funding for a range of training courses via the Scottish Union Learning Fund, which is administered by the STUC.
Many RSBi staff have benefitted from training through the Fund, which has brought a direct economic benefit to individual employees and to the company as a whole.
Grahame Smith, STUC General Secretary, said: ‘The STUC Union Rep Awards highlight the invaluable contribution that trade union members make in the workplace.’
The First Minister’s visit was organised after Robert Mooney, a development officer at RSBi, was awarded the STUC One Workplace Equality Award by the First Minister in November 2011.
A registered blind person, Robert invited the First Minister to visit his workplace and witness the state-of-the-art manufacturing taking place at Springburn.
RSBi has had a presence in Glasgow for more than 200 years. The business has continued to evolve to meet the changing needs of the marketplace and currently specialises in manufacturing a wide range of products from office, domestic and educational furniture to timber kits for houses and schools and beds among many other items.
In Remploy’s factory in Edgefauld Road, the impact of the closure announcement was just sinking in. Established since 1976, it is one of the 36 out of 54 Remploy factories expected to be closed this year as not commercially viable. This is because of the Westminster Government’s decision to reduce current funding as part of a package of reforms ‘to maximise the number of disabled people supported into work.’ Of the 46 workers at Remploy in Springburn, 43 have disabilities. They manufacture steel wheelchairs. Government funding for the entire Remploy network is expected to be reduced during 2012/13 with the aim of completing changes by autumn 2013. Soon, Remploy will start discussions with trade unions and management forums to begin the formal consultation on the proposals.
After the announcement William Bain, Labour MP for Glasgow North East said: ‘This is devastating news. In my constituency there are almost 20 people chasing every vacancy. It is incredibly tough out there. There is a big enough shortage of jobs without placing strain and pressure on some of the most vulnerable members of the workforce. The way this has been sneaked out is unacceptable.’
In Glasgow last year, Employment Services found 534 jobs for disabled and disadvantaged people.
Hundreds of people packed into Falkirk Football Club’s Westfield Stadium on Friday November 4 to celebrate the life of Campbell Christie. The former General Secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress died, aged 74, on October 28 and was buried at a private service in Kirkcudbrightshire.
His family felt the stadium, where he’d spent many happy hours following his team and chairing the Club, was the appropriate place to hold the public tribute but warned everyone to wrap up well and be prepared to be exposed to the elements.
As it was, the day was dry and sunny and the body heat of the several hundred people who attended and the warmth of feeling for the late Campbell and for his family, helped keep everyone happy.
Current STUC General Secretary, Grahame Smith said that Campbell had taken over at the STUC in 1986 during ‘most challenging times’ for Scottish industry and workers. ‘But he liked a challenge!’
Grahame paid tribute to his predecessor’s skills in negotiation and people management. ‘He was a master of the gentle art of persuasion,’ he said. One of Scotland’s most outstanding trade union and civic leaders, Campbell Christie led the Scottish TUC through the 1980s and 1990s. ‘He was never afraid of taking the difficult decision, even if he knew it might upset the others in the Labour movement. He always saw the bigger picture,’ said Grahame.
A message from First Minister Alex Salmond was read and said Campbell had been ‘unstinting in his public service right up to the end.’ The family expressed their thanks to Mr Salmond for his support during Campbell’s illness.
Among his many civic responsibilities, Campbell served on Boards as diverse as Forth Valley NHS Lothian, Scottish Enterprise, British Waterways, Age Concern Falkirk, Central Scotland Race Equality Council and the Scottish Premier League. In Scotland, he was appointed to the Scottish Futures Forum through the Scottish Parliament and in Europe he was Vice President of the European Union Economic and Social Committee’s section for Cohesion and Economic affairs – among many other appointments. He was honoured by five universities and made CBE in the Queen’s 1997 Birthday Honours list.
Tributes were paid by his son Doug Christie, brother Leslie and granddaughter Lindsey. And singers Dick Gaughan and MSP Cathy Peattie, also raised their voices, tunefully, to honour the man.
The stadium where the Celebration was held was opened when Campbell was Chairman of the Board of Falkirk Football Club, said present chairman, Martin Ritchie. ‘This is part of his legacy to the people of Falkirk and to the club he served so well.’
In closing, his friend Professor Andrew Scott positioned Campbell’s unique contribution in the history of Scotland. ‘He was an exceptional man who did exceptional things. All of Scotland will miss him,’ he said.
Campbell Christie who was General Secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress for 12 years till 1998, has died, aged 74, at Strathcarron Hospice in Stirlingshire.
Not only was he a champion of the trades union movement, he was a socialist who saw a wider picture and campaigned long and hard for a Scottish Parliament through the Scottish Constitutional Convention.
Said First Minister, Alex Salmond: ‘Scotland has lost a giant of the trade union movement and of public life.’
Current STUC General Secretary, Grahame Smith, said: Campbell was a tremendous ambassador for the trade union movement and for Scotland. He was one of Scotland’s most outstanding trade union and civic leaders and led people through the 1980s and 90s – some of the most challenging times for Scottish industry and Scottish workers – with tremendous skill and passion, gaining respect for himself and the STUC across the industrial and political spectrum.
‘He was never afraid of taking the difficult decision, even if he knew it might upset others in the Labour movement. He always saw the bigger picture.
‘Under Campbell’s stewardship the STUC rose above the exclusion of unions from the ‘corridors of power’ and forged relationships across Scottish society which galvanised opposition to the brutal policies of Thatcher and Major Governments. Those relationships remain in place today.’
Three times chairman of Falkirk Football Club, he was still a Director on his death on Friday 28 October. ‘He steered the Club through some of the greatest turmoil and greatest successes,’ says the Club’s website. A minute’s silence will be observed at the game on Saturday 29 October against Raith Rovers.