Thousands of jobs saved as Vauxhall plant is granted a reprieve
In a move that preserves 2,100 jobs and promises to create hundreds more, Vauxhall’s threatened car plant in Ellesmere Port, Merseyside, has been saved from closure.
Opel/Vauxhall, the European arm of General Motors, will now split the production of the new Astra car model between Ellesmere Port and a plant in Poland. However, Opel’s factory in Bochum, Germany, is now likely to lose out.
The news will come as a huge relief to the thousands already working there, especially following a tense few months during which General Motors, attempting to cut its losses, had singled out Ellesmere Port as likely to close.
Despite being one of the most productive car plants in Europe, it was at risk of closure because of General Motors’ overcapacity in its European operations, meaning the company made a loss of £469million last year.
General Motor’s turnaround in attitude is a sign that lobbying by British politicians and trade union officials alike has paid off. The Business Secretary, Vince Cable, played an important role in ensuring the success. In March, he travelled to New York to urge GM bosses to retain faith in their British workforce. He was keen to emphasise that the various government programmes in place in the UK, such as its regional growth fund and apprenticeship schemes, would be available for the company’s UK workforce. Vauxhall is now expected to take advantage of some of these measures.
Cable, who is visiting the plant today to mark the agreement, remarked that a “UK team effort” was to thank for the car plant’s triumph against closure.
As a result, GM has confirmed a £125million investment in the plant. The factory is to build the next generation of Astra cars, meaning that its future is safeguarded until at least 2020. The plant will increase its number of shifts, from two eight-hour shifts a day to three, meaning it will be working to full capacity, and this could create up to 700 new jobs.
Members of the unite union have also shown their support, with 94% voting in favour of the new pay and conditions package.
“We have done our bit and accepted the proposals, which will hopefully secure the future of the factory for many years,” one worker said after the vote.