'Basics have become luxury items'

Striking Tipton CabAuto workers reveal shocking levels of in-work poverty

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More than 100 West Midlands workers, paid just £9.90 an hour, are taking renewed strike action, which began on 23 August and will finish on 16 September, over a three per cent pay offer. The real rate of inflation, RPI, is running at 12.3 per cent and is expected to climb even higher.

The workers, who make luxury car interiors but do not receive company sick pay or shift pay, have taken 26 days of strike action since 28 June.

Meanwhile, the latest available financial reports of CabAuto’s owner, the Adler Pelzer Group, show it made profits of £118 million (€137.6 million) in 2020.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “How is it justifiable to be sitting on tens of millions in profits, yet leave your workforce terrified of their coming winter bills? The level of in work poverty experienced by our members – who are making interiors for some of the most prestigious and expensive carmakers in the world – is shocking. Our members are rightly furious and Unite is with them every step of the way in their fight for a fair pay rise.”

One CabAuto worker, who wishes to remain anonymous to avoid repercussions from the company, said, “I have no idea how I will keep my family warm and fed this winter, we were already using food banks before the huge increase in energy bills.”

Another CabAuto worker said, “I am a skilled worker who supplies parts into luxury carmakers like Aston Martin, JLR, Bentley and McLaren, yet I have to suffer the embarrassment of using foodbanks at the end of the week due to my poverty pay.”

A further CabAuto worker added, “After paying rent, energy bills and food bills, I am left with very little. Buying school uniforms and new shoes for my children is unachievable. These basics have become a luxury items.”

The workers make seats and interior trims for luxury cars such as the £225,000 Aston Martin Superleggera, the £700,000 McLaren Senna and the £262,000 Bentley Continental GT Speed Convertible.

Unite regional officer Jason Richards added, “Our members are rock solid in their determination to win a cost-of-living pay rise. CabAuto’s appalling treatment of the workforce, refusing to even listen to their concerns about in work poverty or engage in negotiations, has only made them more determined. Unite’s considerable membership at JLR, Bentley and Aston Martin are in full support of the CabAuto strikes. CabAuto’s clients won’t be pleased at the exploitative wages being paid in their supply chain either. This dispute will continue to escalate until CabAuto and Adler Pelzer put forward an acceptable offer.”

By Ryan Fletcher

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