South of Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has demanded answers from Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop about why businesses such as Prestwick Aircraft Maintenance are continuing to remain open during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The local MSP said that while most companies are acting responsibly and have closed their doors unless they are carrying out essential work, some, like Prestwick Aircraft Maintenance, have remained open.
Prestwick Aircraft Maintenance, whose landlord is the Scottish Government who own Prestwick Airport, has also refused to furlough its workforce which would mean continuing to pay at least 80 per cent of wages and is trying to impose a 50 per cent pay cut on workers. It has also reportedly sacked about 20 employees who spoke out against the planned wage cut.
Speaking during a special question session in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday, local MSP Colin Smyth told the Economy Secretary that the failure of the Scottish Government to make their advice to businesses on when they should close legally enforceable was allowing companies such as Prestwick Aircraft Maintenance to continue to remain open.
Colin Smyth told Parliament: “While the vast majority of businesses have acted responsibly and have stayed closed unless they carry out essential work, not all have done so, including Prestwick Aircraft Maintenance, whose landlord is the Scottish Government.
“Not only did that company refuse to furlough its workforce, which would have allowed it to continue to pay at least 80 per cent of wages, but it is trying to impose a 50 per cent pay cut on its workers and is sacking those who refuse to agree to that.
“Does the cabinet secretary [Fiona Hyslop] understand that the company gets away with that because the Government guidance on what is essential business is not backed up in law?
“In the absence of a legal underpinning for closing such businesses, what is the cabinet secretary doing to fully enforce her own guidance, not least on companies such as Prestwick Airport that are based on Government-owned land?”
Speaking after the parliamentary session, Colin Smyth said: “Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop expressed her concern about the actions of Prestwick Aircraft Maintenance but given the situation, it really isn’t enough.
“Companies like this have justified their continued production by saying they are abiding by social distancing measures and that they are carrying out essential work. However, this is will no longer wash, and the answer from Fiona Hyslop in parliament yesterday proves that the Scottish Government has much more work to do to ensure that companies are not flouting the rules for their own gain.
“I will keep putting the pressure on this company and others for the appalling way they are continuing to ignore staff concerns and urge the government to include in forthcoming emergency legislation powers to legally enforce the guidance on when companies should and shouldn’t remain open. It is clear that this company aren’t being responsible enough or care about their workforce, so only tougher laws from the Government will force them into action will work.”