A union has vowed to fight plans to close a ‘highly viable’ Erdington engineering plant – where more than 500 workers face the axe.
Staff at GKN Automotive on Chester Road were last month given the devastating and ‘completely unexpected’ news the plant would close.
The news came just two years after the firm, one of the UK’s oldest engineering companies, was sold to investment firm Melrose Industries for £8.1 billion.
The 2018 takeover was controversial, with local Labour MP Jack Dromey (Lab Erdington) and trade union Unite calling on the Government to block it.
Liam Butterworth, GKN CEO said last month in a letter to staff the site would ‘carefully wind down’ over the next 18 months.
Today, Unite the union vowed to overturn the closure and announced it was working on a rescue plan to secure the future of the plant, which produces drivelines for major automotive companies across the UK.
National officer Des Quinn said: “The Chester Road factory is a highly viable site and Unite is committed to pursuing every option to keep it open.
“Sadly, Melrose/GKN is acting in the manner that those opposed to its takeover feared, closing viable plants and ditching workers to boost profits.
“Its promise to create a UK manufacturing powerhouse now appears, at best, misleading.
“Thankfully, with an 18-month window before the factory closes, Unite is hoping to develop a watertight business case guaranteeing the factory’s future.
“The union will be creating a coalition of workers, the local community, business groups, local politicians and others to secure the future of the Chester Road site.
“Unite is open to talks with GKN and is prepared to discuss all options to ensure the future of the Chester Road factory.”
Last month, GKN confirmed the closure would impact 519 workers.
A letter from GKN Automotive CEO Liam Butterworth, seen by Birmingham Live, said: “GKN Automotive has taken the difficult decision to propose the closure of our assembly site at Chester Road, Birmingham.
“Sadly, an increasingly competitive global market means that the site is no longer viable. This is despite significant effort and investment over the past ten years to reduce the site’s high operating costs and make it competitive.
“Supporting our people is our first priority as we consult on this proposal. Employees at the site are being notified today and support is being made available to them throughout this process. We will then commence a period of consultation with the union and employee representatives in the coming weeks.
“We expect this proposal to impact 519 employees. The proposal envisages that GKN Automotive will carefully wind down the site over 18 months to ensure an orderly and stable transition of operations and give those affected time to find new work. The proposal is to transfer production to other sites in our network.”
After news of the closure emerged, Mr Dromey said: “Despite all the warm words by Melrose in 2018 to protect the future prosperity of GKN and its British workforce, the cold reality three years on is that one of GKN’s finest plants now faces closure. Melrose promised a bright future to GKN’s employees – a promise they have now broken.
“This announcement is completely unexpected by employees at GKN. Working together with their trade union, Unite, I will be seeking an urgent meeting with the company.
“Government Minister’s also have a responsibility to act after promises they made at the time of the hostile takeover. The then Prime Minister, Theresa May, promised me on the floor of the House of Commons that the Government would always act in the UK national interest. We now face the potential of British workers seeing their jobs move abroad to one of GKN’s many continental plants.
“If this Government means what is says when it aims to level up our country, this must start here and now with an urgent solution being found to keep the plant open.”
-- to www.birminghammail.co.uk