Hundreds of highly skilled manufacturing jobs are set to go after Delphi, a global car components supplier based in the US, announced on Friday (August 4) the closure of a plant in Sudbury, with some of the jobs being outsourced to Romania.
Unite reacted with fury that operations at the site, which employs more than 500 people, will wind down and end by 2020, despite the plant being highly profitable.
The plant specialises in producing diesel fuel injectors and filters for commercial vehicles. It is a large employer in the area and the closure, Unite says, will have a massive economic impact locally.
The US conglomerate Delphi had been working with economic specialists Syndex to devise alternative plans to save the plant, but Unite understands that Syndex was not given sufficient time to formulate these plans before the company decided to shut the plant.
It is understood that the Syndex work still continues.
Unite regional officer Neal Evans blamed Delphi for “jumping the gun” and “putting the jobs of the workers and the security of their families in danger, as it did not allow enough time for alternatives to be developed.”
“What is happening here is that the work at the Sudbury plant, which is making a healthy six-figure profit each month, is being sent to Romania where labour costs are lower and subsidies are greater,” he added.
Delphi has form in outsourcing jobs – in 2015 it axed 176 jobs at the same site and shipped them to eastern Europe.
Evans explained that the company had said some work would be transferred to another site in Gloucestershire, but they have not been given any cast-iron, written assurances.
“We will continue to campaign for the company to reverse the closure and we desperately need a pro-active and coherent industrial strategy as the country faces up to the daunting economic challenges of the post-Brexit world,” he said.
“We are also disappointed that not one of the East Anglian Tory MPs signed the House of Commons Early Day Motion (EDM) motion expressing ‘grave concern’ that more than 500 jobs at the profitable in Suffolk site were under threat,” Evans noted.
Indeed, commenting on the news, a government spokesperson gave only a glib response about Jobcentre Plus being “ready to help people get back into work as quickly as possible”, even as Jobcentres across the country are shutting down in record numbers.
The spokesperson highlighted the government’s industrial strategy white paper, which will “help build an economy that works for all”. But only five months ago, a Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) select committee slammed the government’s industrial strategy green paper, saying it lacked long-term vision.
Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke said that the news of the Delphi plant closure “reinforces the need for a strong and robust industrial strategy to be activated immediately to secure these highly skilled manufacturing jobs so they remain in the UK rather than move to a low cost country.
“It is time for the business secretary Greg Clark to translate the rhetoric of an industrial strategy into practical action to secure essential UK manufacturing jobs, especially in rural Suffolk where such skilled industrial jobs are thin on the ground,” he added. “The minister needs to accelerate into top gear.”