Two of the UK’s biggest car makers have altered their production schedules as automotive sector preparations for crashing out of the EU intensify, leading Unite to warn that the government is gambling jobs with its bungling approach to Brexit.
BMW announced yesterday (September 18) that it will bring forward its summer upgrade and maintenance shutdown of the Cowley Mini plant to March in order to minimise disruption in the event of a no deal Brexit.
Unite said the early shutdown of the Oxfordshire based car plant would help avoid potential border delays in importing new production machinery in the event of a cliff edge exit.
Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke said, “Maintenance work and preparing the Cowley plant for the new electric mini would usually have taken place in the summer months, but faced with the UK government’s shambolic approach to Brexit negotiations and the looming chaos of a ‘no deal’, BMW has taken the sensible step to bring forward this essential work.
“BMW’s decision underlines the uncertainty facing one of the UK’s flagship industries. Unite is working with businesses like BMW to mitigate the worst effects of the Tories’ Brexit chaos, but working people are losing out as the uncertainty bites and carmakers stall on investment plans.”
Meanwhile on Monday, Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) told 2,000 staff as its Castle Bromwich site in the West Midlands that they will be working a three day week until Christmas.
The move came after repeated warnings that the government’s shambolic handling of Brexit was impeding the firm’s prospects and just hours after Tory MP Bernard Jenkins accused JLR chief executive Ralf Speth of “scaremongering” over his most recent intervention on the dangers of crashing out the EU.
Wake up and smell the shambles
Unite senior convenor at JLR Castle Bromwich Mick Livingstone said, “Rather than Tory MPs – who have no idea what they are talking about – sniping from the sidelines, they need to wake up and recognise the shambles they have created and the damage they are doing to the UK auto industry.”
The decisions by BMW and JLR came as Honda warned that a no deal scenario would cost the company “tens of millions of pounds” and harm its competitiveness on the continent.
Adding to the chorus of alarms over the impact of a hard Brexit, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said today that the cost of an EU car in the UK could increase by £1,500, while the cost of a UK car in the EU could rise by as much as £2,700.
National staff chairman of Unite at Ford Les McDonald, who works at Ford’s technical research centre at Dunton, Bedfordshire, echoed the concerns of workers from the across the automotive sector.
“All of us are wondering if we’re going to have a job in the future. There’s so much insecurity now and Brexit hasn’t even happened yet. The fact of the matter is that people could lose their jobs,” explained Dawson.
“Everyone in the industry is worried about it. If goods aren’t allowed free access across the borders the reality is that stockpiling and the need to have components available for your builds becomes a big issue.”
MacDonald added, “We need a Brexit deal that provides tariff free access to the EU and the free movement of goods.”