Press Report : Jaguar Land Rover workers have two weeks to decide on pay freeze

Birmingham Mail, 19th January, 2009

Jaguar Land Rover workers have been given just two weeks to decide whether to accept a pay freeze and other cutbacks – or risk the loss of up to 1800 jobs. Sources said unions at JLR have been given a fortnight to digest demands for more job cuts and cutbacks in pay and other working conditions as the credit squeeze continues to wreak havoc in the car sector.

While unions and management at JLR have agreed a temporary pact of public silence to enable workers to consider the latest proposed cutbacks, the clock is already ticking ahead of a shopfloor vote on the package.

The firm, which employs 16,000 people in the West Midlands and Merseyside, has already announced plans to axe 300 management positions and cut salaried agency personnel by 150. JLR Chief Executive David Smith has warned that more job cuts were inevitable.

Workers at JLR said that shop stewards have warned of a major new round of cutbacks to avert up to 1,800 job losses – including a proposed four-day week, a reduction in shift payments, scrapping holiday bonuses, a pay freeze, an increase in pension contributions from employees and about 500 more voluntary redundancies.

Employees say if agreement on the cuts is not reached, 1,800 more jobs will go, raising the spectre of potential compulsory redundancies, a prospect which has always been opposed by JLR unions. Neither unions nor management have said they will veer from last week’s statement, which confirmed further major savings were being sought.

The latest fears about job cuts will put further pressure on the government to look at ways of assisting JLR and the ailing automotive sector. The Birmingham Mail has launched a campaign calling on the government to provide bridging loans to the car maker during the credit crunch. An online petition on the Downing Street website has more than 7600 names.

Lord Bhattacharyya, head of Warwick Manufacturing Group, said: ‘The world car industry crisis is not part of a normal cyclical downturn. It has been hit by a global tsunami. In Britain, it has been suggested that providing government loans or loan guarantee support to Jaguar Land Rover and other vehicle makers is akin to the billions of pounds in taxpayer subsidies that were poured into the bottomless pit of British Leyland in the 1970s. The truth is that there is no comparison.”

Meanwhile, it has been claimed Gaydon-based Aston Martin has admitted it could breach its banking covenants later this year, although Chairman David Richards said the luxury car firm, which announced 600 job losses before Christmas, was not facing immediate cash flow problems.

While the government remains tight-lipped over any plans to bail out JLR, it will today set out proposals to pour billions of pounds more taxpayers’ money into Britain’s struggling banks.

[Source: Birmingham Mail]

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