Unite and others call for government action after JLR job cuts announcement
Labour MP Maria Eagle raised a point of order in the Commons on the day of the announcement.
“Given the ongoing uncertainty about Brexit and the UK’s trading relationship with the EU, worse may be to come,” she said.
“Can you advise me, Mr Speaker, about how I can ensure that ministers and the PM himself take this existential threat to the auto-manufacturing industry in Liverpool as seriously as they should and seek to help those losing their jobs as much as they can?”
Others also called for government action, with Liverpool metro mayor Steve Rotherham calling the news “devastating for workers in Halewood”.
He added that he’ll be working with both the leader of Knowlsey council and Unite to “do what we can to support the plant and the workforce”.
“The government also needs to be stepping in to support vital UK manufacturing,” he noted.
On Wednesday (January 22), JLR announced major changes to the Halewood plant’s shift patterns from three shifts to two, meaning 10 per cent of the factory’s workforce will be made redundant.
About 4,000 people are directly employed at the JLR plant in Merseyside, with an additional 500 working as agency staff.
The car firm said it would be operating an enhanced voluntary redundancy scheme and that the shift changes aim to bring about “significant operating efficiencies”. The changes are expected to be completed by spring this year.
One Halewood JLR worker told the Liverpool Echo that people just wanted “certainty for their futures”.
“It’s not fair really,” he said, adding, “I’m not inclined to take redundancy as I’m not sure where else I’d be able to get a job as good as this one.”
Industry expert David Bailey, a professor of business economics at Birmingham Business School, told the Echo that while it wasn’t clear what “level of redundancies there will be at Halewood and whether or not this is part of the 4,500 job cuts announced last year or on top of that”, he added that “Either way, it’s bad news.”
Bailey pointed out that the firm has “faced something of a perfect storm” including falling sales in China, the world’s largest car market, a shift away from diesel cars across Europe and Brexit uncertainty “slowing the UK market and investment in general”.
Unite national officer Des Quinn emphasised that Unite will ensure that the “commitment to limit job losses to voluntary redundancies is fully honoured”.
Quinn also highlighted that challenges facing UK car manufacturing overall and slammed the government for not doing more to support the industry.
“The UK’s car industry has plummeted from being the jewel in the crown of the UK’s manufacturing sector in a few short years, directly as a result of government inaction,” he said.
“Until the government ensures that there is long-term frictionless trade and no tariffs with the European Union along with meaningful investment in the infrastructure to ensure the success of electric vehicles, the UK’s car industry will continue to experience severe challenges.”