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August 10, 2021

Unite to ballot UK GKN staff for strike action

Walkout proposal now being put to GKN Automotive members at Birmingham plant.

By Simon Warburton

British labour body, Unite, is to ballot GKN Automotive workers at its Chester Road, Birmingham factory for strike action, after the supplier announced it intend to close the plant by 2022.

Unite will put the motion to its members at the venture capitalist, Melrose-owned factory, which employs 500 people and produces car drivelines, for strike action, with the ballot opening on 16 August and closing on 31 August.

“When Melrose bought GKN in 2018, there were howls of protest when fears were raised the new owners could asset strip the company,” said Unite national officer, Des Quinn.

“Melrose’s current actions will make many people believe their assurances to GKN’s shareholders the opposite was true were empty words.

“Melrose has every opportunity to keep this factory open, including a viable alternative business model, promises of support from government and a crucial role to play in the electrification of the auto industry.

“It is certainly not the actions of a company that vowed, when taking over GKN, to establish a ‘UK manufacturing powerhouse.’

“Instead, it looks like the actions of a company committed to short term profit hikes at the expense of business longevity and sustainability.

“Melrose can bet their bottom dollar our members will fight tooth and nail to prevent this factory being sacrificed to the whims of the market and they have the full support of their union behind them.”

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.

Since 2018, GKN has been owned by venture capitalists, Melrose, with the purchase proving highly controversial. In response to fears GKN was going to be asset stripped, Melrose promised shareholders and investors it would establish a ‘UK manufacturing powerhouse.’

GKN is not currently responding to the strike ballot news, but previously noted: “GKN Automotive has fully considered the counter proposals put forward.

“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.”

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