Press Report : JLR boss gives jobs pledge over factory closure

Alun Thorne, Birmingham Post, 25th September, 2009

The boss of Jaguar Land Rover last night pledged that no jobs would be lost by the closure of one of its Midland plants as the wheels were set in motion to potentially end a century of volume car production in Birmingham.

The car giant announced yesterday that either its Castle Bromwich or Lode Lane factories would close in the next five years, while a new Range Rover would be built at its Halewood plant on Merseyside, creating 800 jobs.

Automotive experts and sources close to the company said yesterday that the Birmingham plant in Castle Bromwich – which employs more than 2,000 workers and produces the Jaguar XJ, the XF and the XK sports car – is the most likely to close, with one source claiming that the company is looking to reduce its overall national workforce of 16,000 by around 3,000.

The company said in a statement yesterday that it did not “envisage” any compulsory redundancies and speaking to the Birmingham Post, JLR Chief Executive David Smith was adamant that the planned restructure would have no significant effect on staff numbers. He said: “This is a plan to provide employment for everyone who works for us, but there will always be a little bit of natural change in the number of employees.

This is a plan to provide employment for everyone who works for us, but there will always be a little bit of natural change in the number of employees. The point is to invest in new products, then have a fundamental growth strategy in terms of both the model portfolio and volumes. I am very confident about the employment side.” David Smith, Chief Executive, Jaguar Land Rover

“The point is to invest in new products, then have a fundamental growth strategy in terms of both the model portfolio and volumes. I am very confident about the employment side.” Asked if the plans budget for no change in staffing levels, Mr Smith said: “Yes.”

The company’s new strategy will see the development of a production version of the LRX Concept, the smallest and most fuel-efficient Range Rover at its Halewood plant, as well as the development of a new generation of lightweight sedans, sports cars and premium SUVs with a focus on hybrids and electrification technology. The company said there would also be additional derivatives and powertrain variants of existing core model lines.

It is believed that the most likely scenario would be for JLR to move the production of its aluminium-based Jaguar models to Lode Lane in Solihull, which has a long history of working with the metal, while any new models would be absorbed into available capacity at Lode Lane and Halewood.

Yesterday’s statement from the company stated that savings would also be made through “low-cost country sourcing”, although Mr Smith denied this meant that local suppliers would be abandoned. He said: “The impact on the West Midlands supply chain should be positive overall, with new models and increased volumes. The two plants are within eight miles of each other, so our activity remains close to suppliers.”

The fact that there will be no job losses and news of more positions to be created at Halewood have to be welcomed, yet previous experience will teach us to keep a very mindful eye on the situation. What it means is uncertainty again for the supply chain, a matter exacerbated by JLR indicating that it will look at low-cost sourcing as a means of reducing variable costs.” Rachel Eade, Operations Manager at suppliers’ organisation Accelerate

However, Rachel Eade, Operations Manager at suppliers’ organisation Accelerate, was not convinced. She said: “The fact that there will be no job losses and news of more positions to be created at Halewood have to be welcomed, yet previous experience will teach us to keep a very mindful eye on the situation. What it means is uncertainty again for the supply chain, a matter exacerbated by JLR indicating that it will look at low-cost sourcing as a means of reducing variable costs.”

Despite the reassurances from Mr Smith, Dave Osborne, National Officer of Unite, said its members had been betrayed by JLR’s management. He said: “Earlier this year, this company and our union agreed a framework agreement intended to support JLR through this tough economic period.

“Our members said then that JLR could not be trusted to uphold that agreement. Today, this has proved to be true. Unite’s members will not be paying for management’s incompetence and we will not stand by while those responsible continue to wreak havoc on this business.”

Bert Hill, Regional Officer of the GMB union, said: “GMB will be opposing everything we have heard so far. We will fight the company on this – of that I have no doubt.”

[Source: Birmingham Post]

Clive Goldthorp

About the Author:

Clive claims that his interest in the BMC>MG story dates back to his childhood in the 1960s when the family’s garage premises were leased to a tenant with an Austin agency. However, back in the 1920s and 1930s, his grandmother was one of the country’s first female Garage Proprietors so cars probably run in his genes! Admits to affairs with Alfa Romeos, but has more recently owned an 06/06 MG TF 135 and then a 15/64 MG3 Style… Clive, who was AROnline’s News Editor for nearly four years, stood down from that role in order to devote more time to various Motor Racing projects but still contributes articles on as regular basis as his other commitments permit.

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