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.
Glasgow based City Building has won a £2million contract to supply kitchen units and worktops for homes in East Ayrshire. The range of units and worktops will be manufactured by Royal Strathclyde Blindcraft Industries (RSBi) which is a supported facility operated by City Building. The three year contract will provide 3000 kitchens for East Ayrshire Council’s Housing Asset Services which will install the fixtures.
John Foley, managing director of City Building, said: ‘We’re delighted with this contract win. The RSBi produces furniture and construction products to high standards, while giving genuine and lasting employment opportunities to local people, including those with disabilities. We look forward to working in partnership with East Ayrshire Council on this important project.’
Recently the RSBi gained Gold Certificate standard from the Furniture Industry Research Association (FIRA), an independent industry authority which recognises high quality products and professional craftsmanship. This is understood to have been a factor in City Building’s successful bid. Said Chris McAleavey, head of housing services at East Ayrshire Council: ‘We are confident that the finished product will match our high expectations. RSBi is well known for its high quality products and unique social ethos.’
City Building has been successful in gaining a separate contract with East Ayrshire Council, to fit kitchens, bathrooms and to carry out rewiring.
One of Europe’s largest supported employment facilities, RSBi has 240 workers of whom more than half have a disability. The company works closely with a range of organisations including Glasgow’s Helping Heroes and various disabled ex-servicemen and women’s groups.
City Building has delivered more than £28 million in cash surplus over the last five years, which is passed to Glasgow City Council for investment in frontline services.
City Building’s award-winning training academies in Queenslie and Laurieston are the most successful apprentice-training centres in Scotland.