Labour demand inquiry into public cash going to firms like Kaiam

LABOUR is demanding an inquiry into government grants handed out to companies like crisis-hit technology firm Kaiam in Livingston where over 300 staff were made redundant on Christmas Eve.

Wednesday, 26th December 2018, 8:54 am
Updated Monday, 7th January 2019, 10:59 am
Joanne Baxter, who organised donations for Kaiam workers are the Livingston Station community centre, flanked by MSP Fiona Hyslop, left, and MP Hannah Bardell Picture: TSPL

In 2014, California-based Kaiam was given an £850,000 Scottish Enterprise grant to expand the Livingston site by moving production facilities there from China.

Lothian MSP Neil Findlay has written to the convenor of Holyrood’s economy committee Gordon Lindhurst, calling for an investigation into how government support is given, what conditions apply. whether it is a good use of public money, how money is recouped if conditions are not met and how accountable companies and directors are for the public money they receive.

Mr Findlay said: “The recent actions of this company left 300 workers owed wages just before Christmas and unsure of their future. This is a brutal blow to the individuals and families concerned and to the local economy. Time and again we see companies being funded via grants or loans as part of a deal to get them to locate or stay in Scotland. This is an established and long-standing policy of many governments across the world. However l think the time is right to examine these issues more closely and re-evaluate how effective it is.”

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Staff were told on Christmas Eve that 310 out of the plant’s 338 workers were being made redundant with immediate effect. They had already been told they would not receive their December wage packets.

But there was confusion yesterday when some staff posted on social media that their salaries did appear to have gone into their bank accounts. Others suggested they were automated payments which showed online as transaction but would not have any hard cash behind them.

Meanwhile, a crowdfunding campaign created to support Kaiam employees reached its £10,000 target in just two days.

Donations to the Just Giving page soared past £11,500 by 10.30am on Christmas morning.

Mhairi Duff, creator of the appeal, wrote on the page: “Employees of Kaiam have been left with no wages over the Christmas period. The community have come together amazingly to help ease Christmas a little but these employees still have bills to pay and families to feed. Every penny is hugely appreciated.”

Some workers left messages thanking donors for their contributions. Sam Flanagan wrote: “A huge thanks to everyone that has donated especially at this time of the year.” And Ann Hazard Gregory said: “Thank you so much the kindness of folk is unreal. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

And Livingston FC have teamed up with club sponsors Tony Macaroni to give Kaiam workers free restaurant vouchers and football tickets.

The club announced on its website it would donate £1000 worth of Tony Macaroni restaurant vouchers as well as match tickets for the club’s home game against Aberdeen on Saturday.