Jenny Marra - Remploy      Speech in the Scottish Parliament

22 March 2012 

In our amendment, we note that the Scottish Government can do more for the workers of Remploy.

I welcome the tone of the minister’s speech, which was in stark contrast to what we heard from his back benchers.

I ask the Government to consider some of the article 19 ideas that we have been promoting over the past couple of weeks to protect the Remploy workers in Dundee and throughout Scotland. 

Last week, I started a campaign, backed by Community, the GMB and the Fire Brigades Union, for the Scottish Government to take one simple step to secure the future of Remploy factories in Scotland.  

The campaign asks the Scottish Government to commit to procuring new police and fire uniforms for the single Scottish police and fire services in Scotland.

Use of an article 19 order could lead to Scottish Government contracts to the tune of £1.25 million being given to Remploy.  

How good would it be if the new police and firefighters in our communities knew that their work clothes had been made in their own communities by the workers who needed the work the most? 
Two years ago, Remploy workers at the Dunsinane industrial estate in Dundee made firefighters’ uniforms for the London Fire Brigade.

Chic Brodie: I hear what the member says about specific items of manufacture, but will she accept that part of the problem with Remploy is that, because it has had one stream, it has become very vulnerable. What it needs is diversification. 

Jenny Marra: I have just given a very specific example.

I have seen the Dundee workers make radiation uniforms for the Japanese Government.

Two years ago, they made uniforms for the London Fire Brigade.

Why can they not make Scottish firefighters’ uniforms here in Scotland?

It would be a strong signal if our Scottish Government awarded that contract to Remploy. 

Joe FitzPatrick: We are on the same page here. I, too, recognise the hard work and dedication of the
Dundee factory. The workers in Dundee are highly skilled and make fantastic products. However, one of the problems that they face is that, even when they have the skills to meet a public sector contract, Remploy at a senior level decides not to tender for it. They have the skills to compete against the best in the world because they are the best manufacturers in the world, but Remploy will not tender for the contracts. 

Jenny Marra: I know that, like me, the member cares a lot about the Dundee factory. I have spoken to Remploy and it would be happy to tender for the contract for the new police and fire uniforms if the Scottish Government signalled its willingness to use article 19 to put the contract in place.

I hope that he will back the campaign later today. 

We must recognise the power of article 19.

The European Union—one of the biggest free-trade zones in the world—recognised the moral and financial case for ensuring that contracts are given directly to protect our workplaces when it legislated to allow public procurement to bypass the commercial tender process under article 19.

That is a power that Fergus Ewing has at his disposal and I urge him to use it. 

In answer to Mark McDonald’s point, I say that the campaign for Remploy to make police and fire uniforms has received widespread support.

Last week, I received a call from a global oil and gas company in Aberdeen that had heard about the campaign.

It told me that, if the Scottish Government secured the long-term future of Remploy factories in Scotland by committing to using article 19, it would in turn, following that show of confidence, commit to procuring all of its personal protective equipment from Remploy.

That company has today given the Scottish Government an opportunity to secure the future of Remploy and save hundreds of jobs, provided the Government is willing to take the reins of leadership and commit to using article 19. 

I have written to Government ministers on the issue and I have yet to receive a reply but, in light of the significant offer that I have raised today, I would appreciate it if the minister, in closing, could say whether the Government will consider that action. 

I hope that the minister will consider using article 19, as I have laid out today, to help the workers of Remploy in Scotland.


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