Press Report : Workers fear worst over JLR plant closure

Birmingham Post, 25th September, 2009

Yesterday Jaguar Land Rover announced that one of its Midland plants will close in the next five years. Will Oliphant, Gregg Evans and Paul Suart spoke to workers at Castle Bromwich and Lode Lane, as well as local businesses, to get their reaction.

Plans for Jaguar Land Rover to axe one of its Midland plants were met with fear and trepidation by the people at the coalface. It is still unclear whether Solihull or the Castle Bromwich site will be the victim and the general feeling is that employees of the Indian-owned company are concerned with the uncertainty surrounding the issue.

However, their demands for a quick decision will fall on deaf ears because the automotive giant announced yesterday that this will not happen for another 12-18 months. Meanwhile, traders around the two historic plants have outlined fears of a knock-on effect.

JLR employee Andrew Wood, who has worked in Solihull for 18 years, said he was worried at the latest setback.”It will be a big loss if it goes because it’s been here for so long,” the 64-year-old said. “Lots of people will suffer if it gets knocked down. For me personally it’s going to be very hard to get another job if I’m laid off.”

JLR has stressed that there will be no compulsory redundancies but the feeling among staff is that if a plant is closed down, job losses will follow. Papis Thmba has worked in the canteen in Solihull for six months and was shocked to hear about the plans. “It looks like I’ve just lost my mortgage then. The feeling inside seems pretty much the same. It doesn’t sound good.”

We’ve been given a 10-year time frame so it could be they’ve got to find somewhere else to build the cars if they do close this place down. There are rumours they might send production to India which would be a great shame because Jaguar has always been associated with England.” Dave Saur, Castle Bromwich plant worker

Castle Bromwich plant worker Dave Saur, aged 60, from Ward End, has worked for the firm for more than 25 years. “We knew something was coming for weeks,” he said. “I think they have tried their best to keep it going. Some people seem to care but others in management don’t give a hoot about the workers. In the current market the cars are far too expensive.

“We’ve been given a 10-year time frame so it could be they’ve got to find somewhere else to build the cars if they do close this place down. There are rumours they might send production to India which would be a great shame because Jaguar has always been associated with England.”

Dave Parsons, aged 55, a Jaguar body worker from Acocks Green said: “I’ve been here 34 years and I’ve always been happy. If Castle Vale goes it will be a great shame not just for the workers but the local community. We’ve all done everything we can for the company and can’t do anymore. They’ve said there won’t be any job losses, instead there will be job swaps with (Land Rover) Solihull.”

Jim Wilson was one of the employees in the trim and final department forced to relocate to the Castle Bromwich plant when Jaguar closed the factory in Browns Lane, Coventry, in 2005. “I’m not happy,” he said. “They’ve already shifted us around. I was under the impression that because we had a new car (to manufacture) everything was plain sailing. At Browns Lane we made concessions all the way with Ford when it took over and out-sourced products. We’ve bent over that much for Ford that our backs are hurting. There’s animosity between here, Solihull and Halewood (Merseyside), because you’re fighting for your factory. All that goes through people’s minds is keeping their job.”

At Browns Lane we made concessions all the way with Ford when it took over and out-sourced products. We’ve bent over that much for Ford that our backs are hurting. There’s animosity between here, Solihull and Halewood (Merseyside), because you’re fighting for your factory. All that goes through people’s minds is keeping their job.” Jim Wilson, Castle Bromwich plant worker

Many local businesses are also worried about their future. Traders in Hobs Moat, only a stone’s throw from the Solihull Land Rover plant, are growing increasingly concerned.

Dave Lyons, the owner of Yew Tree Butchers, said that the automotive giant’s workforce provides about 70 per cent of his custom and he relies on the business staying in Solihull. “We have so many people coming in from Land Rover, so if it went it would be a huge loss,” he said. “I’ve been here for five years and it’s quiet enough with the recession so if it was to close I don’t know what would happen. It’s a massive business to have next to us.”

Nearby newsagents Paul’s News opens at 5.30am especially for the workforce and manager Paul Sura said to lose it now would be a massive blow. “It’s going to have a detrimental effect on our business for sure,” said the manager of 15 years. “But it will be the whole area that is going to suffer if it closes. This is a working-class area of Solihull and it will be those who are affected.”

Mark Hobbs, who owns Hobbs Hardware & DIY on the shopping parade, said he knew Land Rover’s time was up some time ago. “As soon as Tata took over them I knew their days were numbered,” he said. “I predict they will ship all the production over to India in years to come and this looks like the first step at narrowing it down. Personally it will affect us because we have workers coming in to get keys cut and for other bits but it will be Solihull that suffers as a whole.”

News that the Lode Lane plant may close has heaped further misery on those already suffering in the recession. Davinder Breet Singh owns Rowood Drive News and he says JLR closing will affect the whole area. “Lots of people come into my shop before and after their shifts, so if it closed I would miss out on their trade. It looks bad for the future of Land Rover if they are closing down a plant” he said.

[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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