Unite meets Kwarteng in save GKN plant talks

Govt commits to further meetings on GKN Birmingham’s future

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Representatives of Unite, along with Jack Dromey MP, today (Thursday 4 March) met with Kwasi Kwarteng MP, the secretary of state for business enterprise and industrial strategy, about the future of the GKN factory in Birmingham.

The meeting was highly positive and Mr Kwarteng committed the government to further discussions about how the future of the factory can be secured.

The meeting was held following the announcement in late January by the factory’s owners, GKN/Melrose that it is set to close in 18 months’ time with the loss of over 500 jobs.

The factory produces drivelines for automotives with its biggest customer being JLR.

Venture capitalists Melrose acquired GKN in 2018 following a hostile takeover and made clear commitments to investors and shareholders that it would invest in the business and create a ‘UK manufacturing powerhouse’.

During the meeting Unite raised the issue that if if Melrose refuses to rethink its decision then the government should review whether the company should continue to receive public sector grants, when it is selling out UK workers by exporting their jobs to Europe.

Unite has established a team of senior officials, shop stewards from the factory and local politicians, including Mr Dromey, to develop a rescue plan to keep the plant open. This will not be a quick fix but a longer term initiative. Unite will be asking the government to support the development of that rescue plan.

“Melrose is guilty of breaking its commitments to shareholders and investors,” commented Unite national officer Des Quinn. “It claimed it wanted to build a UK powerhouse, but the reality is it is planning to export UK jobs to Europe.

“Unite made the case to the business secretary that this is a highly viable factory that has a vital role in delivering the green and sustainable automotive sector that is essential for the success of the UK’s manufacturing sector.

“Support for the factory is also essential to protect its supply chain and to deliver on the government’s levelling up agenda.

“It was a very positive meeting and Mr Kwarteng committed the government to further discussions to properly explore all options to keep the Birmingham factory open.

“During the meeting Unite raised the issue of how GKN/Melrose can be eligible for government support and grants when it is intent on exporting jobs abroad,” he said.

Last month Unite called on Simon Peckham, the chief executive of Melrose PLC, to correct his evidence to the Business Energy and Industrial Strategy select committee. Mr Peckham wrongly told MPs that the GKN Birmingham factory was only an “assembly plant”, when it has manufacturing capabilities. Mr Peckham also misdirected MPs by suggesting the work would be transferred to its factory in Bisenzio in Italy, which Unite understands is not the case.

By Barckley Sumner

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