Graeme Brown, Birmingham Post, 28th September, 2009
Union leaders have accused Jaguar Land Rover bosses of “taking another trip to Fantasy Island” over promises that there would be no job losses when a West Midlands plant is closed. Dave Osborne, National Secretary for the UK car industry for Unite the union, launched a ferocious attack on JLR’s plans to close either Land Rover at Solihull or Jaguar at Castle Bromwich.
Meanwhile, politicians in Coventry have reacted with surprise and sadness at Jaguar’s decision to close its wood veneer manufacturing centre at its Browns Lane plant – which employs 390 people – within the next two years.
In an interview with the Birmingham Post, JLR’s Chief Executive pledged no job losses would come from the plant closure, but Mr Osborne poured scorn on the claims and vowed that unions would not accept attacks on pensions and reduced salary levels for new recruits.
Mr Osborne said: “They are talking about starting manufacturing in other countries. If this is a plan for growth, it sounds to me like an exit strategy for the UK. I think they are taking another trip to Fantasy Island. Based on the plans they have put to us, including the closure of Solihull or Castle Bromwich, the closure of the wood shop at Coventry and more jobs being done overseas, I do not see how they can achieve them all without any job losses or compulsory redundancies.
“It is clearly not possible, it is a figment of their imagination. I question Mr Smith’s statement on this. This is a PR exercise and, at the same time, they are trying to attack our members’ terms and conditions. In 2004, we had the closure of Browns Lane at Coventry to get rid of capacity. They said that 120,000 Jaguars would be produced for the foreseeable future.
They are talking about starting manufacturing in other countries. If this is a plan for growth, it sounds to me like an exit strategy for the UK. I think they are taking another trip to Fantasy Island. Based on the plans they have put to us, including the closure of Solihull or Castle Bromwich, the closure of the wood shop at Coventry and more jobs being done overseas, I do not see how they can achieve them all without any job losses or compulsory redundancies.” Dave Osborne, National Secretary, UK Car Industry, Unite
“The reality is that the figure is 50,000, which is less than 50 per cent of what they were saying in 2004. We have been here before with JLR. They make announcements, they make statements. To be honest with you, they have never delivered. The feeling is that if they couldn’t deliver previously, why should they deliver this time?”
Mr Osborne accused JLR of cynical manipulation of the workforce over the plant closure announcement. He accused JLR of “covering up bad news” with confirmation that the new mini Range Rover based on the LRX concept car would go to Halewood on Merseyside, creating 800 jobs.
Mr Osborne also warned that industrial action was a possibility, with no concessions by unions on the proposed changes to pensions and the plan to cut salaries for new recruits by 20 per cent.
“I believe that they have already made their minds up and are trying to play one plant off against another. There was no need to make that announcement until the middle of next year. That was not an unexpected announcement. Nobody should be carried away by that. In announcing that, they tried to cover up all the bad news that they announced. They tried to portray it as a good news story.
“This is extremely serious. If this is the way that Tata Motors value their people, then we have got to have some really serious discussions with Tata Motors. I am seething – the more I read into this, the more angry I am.”
JLR announced on Thursday that either the plant in Castle Bromwich, which employs 2,000 workers, or Solihull, which employs 5,000, would be closed in the next five years. Mr Smith was emphatic that there would be no job losses, despite sources close to Tata claiming the plans would see JLR’s 16,000-strong UK workforce trimmed by 3,000. The company said the plans, which include production of a smaller, more fuel efficient Land Rover, were necessary in light of the economic climate for car-makers.
Meanwhile, community leaders have been reacting to news that JLR plans to sell as a going concern or close the wood veneer plant at Browns Lane, in Coventry, in the next two years although the Heritage Trust at the same site will remain open. About 390 workers will be offered jobs at alternative plants across the Midlands, if a buyer cannot be found in that time.
However, let’s not be too negative. Jaguar Land Rover is working on new products and technologies. The main headquarters will be located at Whitley which is good news for Coventry. I am also assured there will be no compulsory redundancies.” Jim Cunningham MP
MPs and Councillors have welcomed the promise of no compulsory redundancies, but expressed concern about the plans. Coventry City Council’s Deputy Leader, Coun. Kevin Foster, said: “I am relieved to hear Jaguar’s commitment not to make compulsory redundancies, as well as its long-term commitment to the Whitley site.
“Yet there are many Coventry workers at Castle Bromwich and Solihull as well as at the many other companies reliant on JLR for their future who will be worried by this announcement. Likewise the news that the future of the wood veneer plant lies outside the JLR Group will also cause some concern.”
MP for Coventry South Jim Cunningham added: “I was a bit surprised to hear the announcement that Browns Lane will close. I raised this as an issue when they moved work to Castle Bromwich five years ago. We thought that at that time they would have relocated the plant to Whitley. But when they didn’t we felt the situation was settled upon, only for it to be resurrected again today. It is a disappointment to say the least.”
Mr Cunningham has asked for a meeting with management at the firm and will be meeting with trade union members to discuss the future plans of JLR. He added: “However, let’s not be too negative. Jaguar Land Rover is working on new products and technologies. The main headquarters will be located at Whitley which is good news for Coventry. I am also assured there will be no compulsory redundancies.”
A JLR spokesman said: “As part of the review we have decided that the future of the VMC wood veneer plant lies outside of JLR. We are seeking expressions of interest for a purchase as a going concern but if not we would look with a view to closure over the next two years. In that case, all employees would be offered alternative employment elsewhere in the Midlands.”
[Source: Birmingham Post]
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