French-owned carmaker has promised a phased restructuring of the plant in 2019 and is ‘committed’ to avoiding compulsory redundancies. Tony McDonough reports
Trade union Unite is demanding “urgent assurances” on the future of the Vauxhall car factory at Ellesmere Port after the automaker’s parent company announced 240 job losses.
French carmaker PSA, which also owns Peugeot, says a “restructuring” plan will mean having to reduce the workforce, which currently stands at around 900 people, over the course of 2019 – adding it was “committed” to avoiding compulsory redundancies.
However workers at the plant, who have already seen 250 job losses earlier this year and 400 in 2017, immediately walked out in a lightning strike upon hearing the news.
In a statement PSA said: “The 2019 plan encompasses site compression, implementation of new technologies and other transformation activities which will impact on headcount requirements.
“This restructuring is critical to ensure that the Ellesmere Port plant develops its competitiveness during this difficult time within the industry.”
PSA acquired the Opel and Vauxhall brands from General Motors Co for £1.9bn earlier this year to become the second-biggest carmaker in Europe by sales. Workers at Ellesmere Port producing around 140,000 Astras every year.
Like all European carmakers PSA has seen a slowdown in sales this year which has led to the need to cut capacity. Rival Jaguar Land Rover has also been hit by falling sales but, in contrast, is investing in its factory at Halewood on Merseyside, upgrading it to assemble the new Evoque Range Rover, which was unveiled yesterday.
The firm has entered into a 45-day consultation period with trade union and employee representatives and said people would be given the option of transferring to the Vauxhall plant in Luton.
But Unite is calling on PSA to provide certainty for the workforce by committing new models to Ellesmere Port and warned the factory was in danger of suffering “death by a thousand cuts”.
Unite regional coordinating officer, Mick Chalmers, said: “Vauxhall’s Ellesmere Port workers have made huge sacrifices and worked hard to ensure the carmaker recently returned to profit for the first time in two decades.
“Further job losses will come as a sickening blow for them and their families in the run up to Christmas and will further heighten the anger over the uncertainty surrounding the future of the plant.
“Unite will be offering our members maximum support and pressing for guarantees of no compulsory redundancies. Unite will also be seeking urgent assurances and continue to press for PSA to remove the uncertainty surrounding the plant by committing new models to Ellesmere Port beyond 2021.”
Ellesmere Port Labour MP Justin Madders said the latest round of job losses was “absolutely devastating” and he echoed Unite’s call for no compulsory redundancies. He added: “Throughout a highly uncertain and difficult time, the workers have done everything that has been asked of them and have continued to operate one of the most efficient facilities in Europe.
“They cannot be expected to continue to make sacrifices without any assurances on the future of the plant. I have been warning the Government since the referendum took place of the need to provide clarity about the future of the automotive sector following Brexit.”