Unite vows to overturn GKN’s Birmingham factory closure plans

Unite will pursue 'every option' to keep Birmingham GKN plant open and accuses Melrose of lying about its intentions

Reading time: 4 min

Unite has announced that it is working on a rescue plan to secure the future of the GKN plant in Chester Road, Birmingham that produces drivelines for major automotive companies in the UK.

The 500 plus workforce at the factory were left shocked and fearing for their future when the company announced at the end of last month that the plant was earmarked for closure in 18 months time, with its work being transferred to other sites in Europe.

Since 2018 GKN has been owned by venture capitalists Melrose. Melrose’s purchase of GKN was highly controversial. In response to fears that GKN was going to be asset stripped, Melrose promised shareholders and investors that it would establish a ‘UK manufacturing powerhouse’.

Following the announcement that Melrose/GKN is intent on closing the highly viable Chester Road factory, Unite has labelled the commitment to a UK manufacturing powerhouse as ‘at best misleading or at worst a direct lie’.

In response to the company’s closure plans Unite has established a team of senior officers, shop stewards from the plant, local politicians including the local MP Jack Dromey, to explore all possible options to keep the factory open. Unite is warning that this will not be a quick fix but a longer term initiative.

Earlier this week Unite met, with the company’s ‘decision makers’ about the closure plans although disappointingly the chief executive officer Liam Butterworth was unable to attend.

Unite has learned that since Mr Butterworth joined the company in November 2018 he has been working on a ‘transformation programme’. Despite his project being developed for over two years, Mr Butterworth has never sought to engage any union in his plans, despite the company making commitments at its European Works Council (EWC) to do exactly that.

Unite national officer Des Quinn said, “The bottom line is that the Chester Road factory is a highly viable site and Unite is committed to pursuing every option to keep it open.

“Sadly, Melrose/GKN is acting in the manner that those opposed to its takeover feared, closing viable plants and ditching workers to boost profits,” he added.

“Its promise to create a UK manufacturing powerhouse now appears at best misleading or at worst a direct lie.

“Thankfully, with an 18 month window before the factory closes, Unite is hoping to develop a watertight business case guaranteeing the factory’s future,” Quinn continued.

“The union will be creating a coalition of workers, the local community, business groups, local politicians and others to secure the future of the Chester Road site.

“Unite is open to talks with GKN and is prepared to discuss all options to ensure the future of the Chester Road factory.”

By Barckley Sumner

Related Articles