Unite celebrated as Vauxhall owner PSA Group announced today (April 4) that the firm plans to continue production of its Vivaro vans at its plant in Luton until at least 2029.
The move, which will be facilitated by £170m in investment from both the company and government sources, will secure the 1,400 existing jobs at the Luton plant for more than decade and will also mean the creation of 450 more jobs.
Investment in the plant will include new technology that could allow the Luton site to produce Citroen and Peugeot-branded vans in the future in addition to the new Vivaro model. Last year, the plant produced 70,000 vans and it hopes to make 100,000 vans this year.
‘Vote of confidence’
PSA Group boss Carlos Tavares praised the workforce and the relationship it has with Unite.
“Performance is the trigger for sustainability and I would like to thank all stakeholders involved and underline the open mind set of our union partners, as well as that of the UK government,” he said. “This is a major milestone for the future of the Luton plant and a key enabler to serve our ambitions in the commercial vehicle market, guaranteeing customers the best offering in this segment.”
Business secretary Greg Clark called today’s decision “a vote of confidence in Vauxhall’s high-skilled workforce and the UK’s world leading automotive sector.”
Labour shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey said the announcement was “welcome news not just for the local economy and jobs but for the whole of the manufacturing industry which has suffered years of uncertainty under the Tories.”
The announcement comes after Unite met with Tavares on numerous occasions this and last year to lobby him for greater investment in its UK plants, which were acquired following a buyout of General Motors’ Opel and Vauxhall divisions in 2017.
Brexit uncertainty has cast a shadow over much of the UK automotive sector, which strongly depends on trade with the EU for its success. But Unite warned PSA last month that Brexit cannot be used as an excuse to stop investment in the UK’s world class car plants.
PSA’s second UK Vauxhall plant in Ellesmere Port has had a rocky year after 250 redundancies were announced in January following 400 job cuts last October.
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey hailed the new investment at the Luton plant but warned that the union would be seeking similar commitments to the Ellesmere Port site.
“It is great news that this new product should see van production at Luton for the next ten years to come,” he said. “This is a very welcome investment in Luton by PSA, and a deserving tribute to a dedicated workforce. It will steady nerves at the plant after years of uncertainty.
“It will, of course, be for the members at the plant to decide whether to accept the whole package of measures, including a pay deal along with the new product, and they will take that vote in the coming weeks,” McCluskey added.
“In the meantime I want to pay tribute to the stewards and members at both our Vauxhall sites, Luton and Ellesmere Port, for their commitment to delivering successful negotiations. They are a credit to their union and deserve today’s better news.
Ellemsere Port committment call
“However, I do want to raise one matter with Carlos Tavares, PSA’s CEO directly,” he noted. “The investment into Luton is very welcome, but we do expect to hear of similar plans for Ellesmere Port, where the workforce has been just as loyal and is just as deserving of a secure future but continues to live with a cloud hanging over it.
“PSA must now act to end the uncertainty facing workers in Ellesmere Port and ensure that their futures are as secure,” she noted.
McCluskey went on to say that Vauxhall is a “highly regarded British brand with over a century of motor manufacturing with a strong and loyal UK customer following. Add to this the excellent productivity at our plants and the case for PSA to build a long-term home in the UK is a compelling one.
“Clearly the idea that [the Luton] plant now has a vehicle with a 10- to 12-year shelf life and could create 350-450 new jobs is a huge plus,” he added. “But we want to make sure we have similar assurances for Ellesmere Port.
“We have a world-class workforce. Brexit and the confusion and the uncertainty doesn’t help. All of industry tells me they are deeply concerned. But Carlos Tavares has said repeatedly that he doesn’t want to close any car plants.”
McCluskey said he looked forward to meeting Tavares again “to bring good news to Ellesmere Port too.”