Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) confirmed today (April 16) that it would be axing 1,000 contract jobs at the carmaker’s plant in Solihull, where the Range Rover and the Land Rover Discover SUV are produced.
The agency roles are being cut, JLR said in a statement today (April 16), because of continuing Brexit uncertainty which is damaging consumer confidence, as well as confusion over the government’s diesel policies.
The jobs losses were announced amid a 26 per cent fall in JLR sales in the UK in the first three months of the year and a 32 per cent fall in sales in Europe’s biggest car market, Germany, during the same period. The record number of cars JLR sold abroad last year were not enough to make up for falling demand in Europe and at home, where the majority of the carmaker’s vehicles are sold.
“As is standard business practice, Jaguar Land Rover regularly reviews its production schedules to ensure market demand is balanced globally,” JLR said in a statement.
“In light of the continuing headwinds impacting the car industry, we are making some adjustments to our production schedules and the level of agency staff.”
But, JLR added, it would still be “continuing to recruit large numbers of highly skilled engineers, graduates and apprentices as we over-proportionally invest in new products and technologies.”
JLR’s latest job losses come after the firm announced in January that it would be temporarily scaling back production at its Halewood plant in response to falling demand, particularly in diesel cars.
Unite national officer for Jaguar Land Rover Des Quinn called the JLR announcement “a blow for a top class workforce that has worked hard to turn Jaguar Land Rover’s fortunes around in recent years.”
“It should be a wake-up call for minsters and have alarm bells ringing in the highest levels of government,” he added.
“Confusion over diesel cars prompted by badly thought through ministerial announcements, plus faltering consumer confidence allied with Brexit uncertainty are the major factors behind this announcement.
“With falling car sales a sure sign that consumers are tightening their belts, the government needs to get the economy out of the slow lane and provide certainty over the UK’s future trading relationship with Europe,” Quinn noted.
“Time and again auto companies, like Jaguar Land Rover, tell us that they need existing trading relationships to prevail once we leave the European Union. We need the government to say emphatically and without doubt that they will.
“Minsters also need to help ensure a ‘just’ transition from diesel and petrol engines to electric powered vehicles to secure decent high skilled jobs in the UK as part of a vibrant industrial strategy,” he highlighted.
This is especially important for JLR given nine out of ten cars the company produces are diesel cars. The fall in diesel demand has harmed the UK automotive industry across the board, with influential industry body the Society for Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) reporting earlier this month that diesel demand fell by 37.2 per cent in March compared to the same month last year.
From April 1 of this year, a higher excise duty has been imposed on diesel vehicles and the government has moved to ban new diesel cars entirely by 2040 – a move that has been criticised by Unite because the plans were rushed through and lack clarity.
Unite and other groups have highlighted that new diesel engines made in the UK are among the cleanest engines in the world and are essential in making a ‘just transition’ to electric.
Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke said that a just transition to electric “without sacrificing hundreds of thousands of jobs can only be accomplished by having in place the proper infrastructure and an industrial strategy that includes retraining workers to have the skills needed for an electric future.”
Other countries in Europe such as Germany have planned a phased transition that includes consulting unions and industry bodies. Taking this approach, Burke noted, meant that these countries have been able to set their target year for zero-emissions cars much sooner.
Meanwhile, Britain has begun to lag behind in league tables for necessary electric vehicle infrastructure, such as public charging points.
Unite assistant general secretary for legal services and acting regional secretary for the West Midlands Howard Beckett highlighted the regional impact JLR’s job losses would have.
West Midlands powerhouse
“Jaguar Land Rover is a powerhouse of the West Midlands economy and a source of decent well paid jobs,” he said. “News of lay-offs will obviously be unsettling for workers and their families and send shockwaves through the supply chain.
“Our fear is that the jobs toll in the wider economy could reach 5,000. Losses on this scale demand concerted government action, nationally and in the region,” Beckett added.
“Unite will be giving its full support to the workers affected and seeking to work with employers and key figures, such as the West Midlands mayor Andy Street, to ensure we retain skills in the region and find jobs for those facing redundancy.
“Jaguar Land Rover workers are world beaters at the cutting edge of the UK car industry,” he went added. “Unite will pull every lever we can to make certain that the carmaker continues to play a leading role in the life and economy of the West Midlands.”
Quinn agreed, saying Unite will be “working closely with the company in our fight to retain jobs while giving our members the maximum support possible through this difficult time.
“Going forward Unite will continue to press Jaguar Land Rover on commitments for future models to be made here in the UK.”