Disabled workers face redundancy

Twenty-one profoundly disabled workers facing
compulsory redundancy from a council-run sheltered workshop this
month have had their redundancy notices extended.

Following a meeting between the council,
Unison and workshop employees, Kingston-upon-Hull Council has
agreed to extend the deadline for terminating staff contracts with
B Line Industries, a government-subsidised sheltered workshop
scheme for disabled people. B Line manufactures office

Kingston inherited B Line and its 82 staff
from Humberside Council in 1996 following unitary status. But since
then the council claims the business “has struggled in the face of
declining demand and fierce competition in the office furniture
market”. In a bid to safeguard the company’s long-term future, the
council claims it has to cut the workforce and move the business
into manufacturing kitchen units.

However, Unison representative Linda Muir said
that although it was a competitive market B Line has “a very good
reputation”, and put the current state of affairs down to “lax
management up to the summer of last year”, at which point new
management was installed.

She also claimed that the council had not
given B Line the opportunity to recover, and that in recent months
it had been turning orders away.

Of the 82 staff employed last year, nine have
already been redeployed by the council, 15 have requested early
retirement or voluntary severance packages, 27 have been offered
new posts at the workshop and six remain on the special placement

Of the remaining 25, four profoundly disabled
workers are currently being considered for new posts at B Line,
subject to Unison and council negotiations.

Councillor Danny Brown, cabinet member for
social services, said: “Our aim has always been to ensure that B
Line has a future and at the same time to positively support staff
through a period of change and uncertainty.”

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