British labour body, Unite, says it “entirely rejects the false notion there is not a long-term viable future for the GKN Birmingham factory,” whose planned closure was confirmed by the supplier.
Unite maintains the alternative business plan to keep the driveline plant open has been rejected by GKN Automotive, following the company’s announcement earlier this year it was to close the Chester Road factory in 2022 with the loss of more than 500 jobs.
GKN’s Chester Road site is in the Erdington area of Birmingham and will come as a blow to the region, which has traditionally been at the heart of UK automotive manufacturing and many of its suppliers.
Earlier this month (May, 2021) a joint consultative committee comprising members of Unite and local management at the factory presented an alternative business plan, setting out a long–term future for the site.
However, the union said while praising the content of the alternative business plan, GKN Automotive rejected its findings and stated they wished to move forward to the next stage of the consultation process.
“This is a deeply disappointing response from GKN Automotive,” said Unite convenor at the plant, Frank Duffy. “Unite entirely rejects the false notion there is not a long-term viable future for the GKN Birmingham factory.”
The union previously raised concerns surrounding the possible loss of skilled production from Britain at the site, which produces drivelines for GKN, but the supplier insisted the factory was no longer viable in an increasingly competitive global market.
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“GKN Automotive has fully considered the counter proposals put forward,” said a GKN Automotive spokesman. “However, the outlook for the highly competitive automotive market remains unchanged.
“Regretfully, therefore, we are proceeding with our proposal to close the site. Supporting our people continues to be our priority.”
For his part, Unite national officer for the automotive sector, Des Quinn, added: “Unite calls on all interested parties including central government, local government, the supply chain, customers and GKN Automotive to come together and ensure the factory’s future.
“The UK’s automotive sector needs e-drive suppliers and a sustainable supply chain or the entire UK automotive sector is at risk of collapse.
“GKN Birmingham has the ability to supply the e-drives the UK’s automotive sector desperately needs, it just needs the vision, support and investment to ensure it has a crucial role to play in the electrification of UK vehicles.
“In order for the electrification of cars to be a success in the UK, it is essential GKN remains open and full functioning and in order for that to be achieved it needs government support.”
The UK-headquartered global supplier is three years into its new organisation, following Melrose Industries‘ controversial acquisition of the business after the British government reportedly waved through the purchase, concluding it raised no national security concerns on the defence side of GKN’s activities.
“This decision is devastating for the 519 workers at the Chester Road plant,” added Birmingham Erdington MP, Jack Dromey.
“The workers, supported by the union, Unite, worked tirelessly to produce a comprehensive and detailed alternative plan to closure. It is therefore fundamentally wrong GKN/Melrose have now called time on the consultation process and instead intend to push ahead with closure.
“GKN Chester Road is vital, not just to Erdington and the West Midlands economy, but also the whole automotive industry in the UK. If the plant were to close, it would be a betrayal of the 519 workers, of British automotive and the British national interest.
“I will therefore be seeking urgent discussions with the chief executive of GKN and the government, who have publicly indicated their commitment to offer support to allow the plant to remain open.
“The workers at GKN and their union, Unite, are determined to keep the plant open. As their MP, they have my total and unending support.”