2,200 jobs to go at truck plants
By Jonathan Davis and Ronald Faux
More than 2200 workers in BL’s loss-making commercial vehicle business will lose their jobs through the Government’s decision to back the state company’s plans to close its truck and bus manufacturing plants at Bathgate, near Edinbugh and in Leeds.
The decision was announced to the workers yesterday, and immediately brought protests, particularly in Scotland, where the closure of the Bathgate truck and engine plant will cost 1800 jobs, phased over two years. Another 440 jobs will go with closure of the C.H Roe Leeds bus and coach plant.
MPs will debate the closure plans today. Workers at Bathgate, which has been under threat for months, were reported to have begun a sit-in last night. The closures were confirmed in a Commons statement by Mr Norman Tebbit, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, overshadowing his simultaneous announcement that the privatization of Jaguar Cars will go ahead, as expected, this year.
Mr Tebbit confirmed that the whole of Jaguar’s share capital will be sold to investors on the stock market, despite BL’s earlier campaign to retain a 25 per cent minority stake in its now highly profitable specialist car subsidiary. The flotation could be as early as July and is expected to raise between £250m and £300m.
BL also announced yesterday that Jaguar’s operating profits increased from £15m in 1982 to £55m last year. The Jaguar sell-off and the Bathgate closure are integral features of the 1984 corporate plan which BL’s board originally submitted to the Government last year. Mr Tebbit said the Government regretted the job losses but believed they were necessary “to establish a viable prospect for the remainder of the commercial vehicles business and the employment in it”.
BL said the closure would save it £10m a year. Mr James Swan, shop stewards convenor at Bathgate, said:
” The members here are angry. There is nowhere else for them to go. The fight to save this plant is guaranteed.”