No last minute reprieve for Dorset Enterprise factory workers: They're just making tea, says councillor (From Bournemouth Echo)
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No last minute reprieve for Dorset Enterprise factory workers: They're just making tea, says councillor
A LAST-ditch effort to save the jobs of 23 disabled people at a Bournemouth factory was turned down by councillors after hearing half the staff were "just making tea".
The Dorset Enterprise factory in West Howe, which was set up to employ injured First World War veterans, has made losses of around £470,000 each year for the last seven years.
Last week the council cabinet agreed to close the factory in March, making its workers redundant, a move opponents claim will leave them trapped on benefits and deprived of a vital service.
Labour leader Cllr Ben Grower called on members of a scrutiny committee to recommend the employees be retained while the future of the factory was decided.
He claimed the council would only save £83,000 of its projected losses for 2013 by making workers redundant, due to payout costs and the need to re-pay a £200,000 government grant. He also said the factory could be made more productive.
Speaking at the meeting, Cllr Blair Crawford, cabinet member for adult social care, said Dorset Enterprise was failing its employees, and the council was seeking a voluntary sector partner to take over the factory.
But he said this would be impossible with the current workforce in place, due to regulations which meant staff transferred to a new organisation would retain their existing rights as employees.
“Most people there are not gainfully employed,” he said.
“At least half of the employees there are not capable of work. When I have visited they are just reading the newspapers or making tea.”
Cllr Crawford said they would assess each worker over the coming weeks to see whether they should be redeployed within the council, or retired on medical grounds, for which they would receive a better pay-off.
At the vote, only Cllr Grower supported his own motion to send the decision back to cabinet, with 11 opposed. After the meeting he said he was not surprised by the decision.
“They want to get rid of the staff. It is a fully-fitted factory worth“£1million,” he said.
“I hope the workers take the council to a tribunal.”
Ian Walker, a representative for disabled members of Unison, said he doubted the staff would be able to find work elsewhere.
He added: “There is no proof this move will save public money overall, these people will have to be paid tax, housing and disability benefits and there will be an inevitable cost to social services when they become critical cases.
“It was the council’s own decision to get rid of the factory’s marketing and operations managers which proved fatal to its success.”