A TRADE union has slammed a Coventry auto-parts manufacturer for replacing 50 disabled workers with non-disabled people just over a month after they were made redundant.
Arlington Automotive, which still owes more than £1.1m in redundancy to disabled former workers who lost their jobs in May, has hired new agency staff – 10 of whom are already working at its Coventry site.
The GMB Union claims the Torrington Avenue manufacturer could be attempting to fill all 50 vacancies with ‘precarious workers’.
And it says Arlington – which supplies parts to Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) – used security guards to escort disabled workers, some of whom use walking sticks, to their lockers to fetch their belongings when they were made redundant.
GMB Organiser Rebecca Mitchell said: “We’re absolutely sickened to see Arlington have purged their disabled workforce like this.
“These workers built that company from the ground up and now they’ve been booted out without so much as a ‘thank you’.
“If they have money to hire new staff, why are they still avoiding paying hard-earned redundancies to their disabled workers?
“This vile behaviour is the cruellest I’ve ever seen in eight years on the job.”
In May, when Arlington went into administration in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, the company said it could not afford to pay redundancy money to the disabled workers, who were told to claim from the government instead.
GMB accused administrators Duff and Phelps of failing to hand over paperwork for the workers’ time at now-defunct government scheme Remploy – from where they were transferred – forcing many disabled workers to find their own evidence to support redundancy claims.
One worker stands to lose more than £56,000 in redundancy pay accrued over a lifetime of service.
Ms Mitchell added: “Arlington has disgraced itself by failing to give even the smallest amount of support to the dozens of disabled workers it has booted out the door.
“Many of these workers are non-verbal and can’t read – how can anyone expect them to put through multiple claims from the government?
“They’ve just been sacked in the middle of a global pandemic; they’re trying to find new jobs and a new life while Arlington make their life that much harder. It’s pointless and totally cruel.”
A spokesperson for Duff and Phelps said: “In common with most manufacturing facilities, Arlington has always used temporary staff to deal with small short term spikes in demand due to the inherent volatility of customer production requirements.
“The company is continuing to trade the business while in administration to provide the best opportunity to find a buyer, which will in turn secure the future of the business.”
In May, a spokesperson said the administrators had recruited a specialist firm to support employees in lodging their claims with the Redundancy Payments Service.
They added: “The Redundancy Payments Service will meet employee claims subject to the statutory limits in place and any residual balances owed to the employees will be claimable in the administration process.”
The Arlington group employs around 600 people in sites in Coventry, Newton Aycliffe, Reading, Stourport, Birmingham and Manchester. It supplies car makers such as JLR, Ford and Nissan among others.
Last September, the company announced it had been approved as a Disability Confident Leader, stating: “We ensure disabled people and those with long term health conditions have the opportunities to both fulfil their potential and realise their aspirations.”