Workers at the Chester Road plant voted by a margin of 93.1% in favour of industrial action following an announcement in January that GKN owners Melrose intend to close the site and export production and 519 jobs to Europe
The workers’ trade union, Unite, announced the decisive result today following months of attempts by the workers, their trade union, Unite and local MP, Jack Dromey, to explore all alternatives to closure of the plant.
Following GKN’s announcement in January of their intention to shut down operations by Summer 2022 with a loss of 519 jobs, workers had entered a consultation period with the company. In response to GKN’s case for closure, the workers, in liaison with Unite, prepared a comprehensive alternative business plan to save the plant. However, Melrose/GKN rejected the workers’ plan.
In parallel, the Chester Road plant convenor, Frank Duffy, Unite officials and Jack Dromey MP have held numerous meetings with Ministers. That led to commitments made by Ministers in Parliament in April during a Westminster Hall debate when Business Minister Amanda Solloway declared that the Government was prepared to consider alternative proposals to closure “that could include investments in capital equipment or in the skills needed to secure future vehicle technology”.
Talks to explore such support by the Government collapsed after Melrose/GKN refused repeated invitations to join, declaring their intention to push ahead with closure, exporting production and 519 jobs to Europe.
On 9th August, Unite served notice on GKN of their intention to ballot workers for industrial action, citing the “zero interest” shown by the company “in seriously examining alternatives to closure”. Since 16th August, workers have been voting in the ballot, the result of which was announced today.
The workers and Unite the Union will now consider their next steps, announcing today that they remain committed to enter discussions at any point and with any stakeholder interested in securing the future of the plant.
Responding to the ballot result, Jack Dromey, MP for Birmingham Erdington, said:
“Today’s result sends a clear and unambiguous message to Melrose/GKN that the 519 workers will do all in their power to save the historic Chester Road plant from closure.
“In one of the poorest constituencies in the country, the closure of the Chester Road plant would be a hammer-blow to the local community. Generations of local families have been given greater opportunities in life due to GKN, yet Melrose/GKN now want to close the plant without even considering any alternative to closure.
“It would also be an act of gross negligence to allow the loss of the skills and expertise of the Chester Road workers, who produce top quality parts for nearly every major car manufacturer in Britain. To let this be lost to our international competitors in Europe would be a betrayal of the British national interest.
“The workers have today shown that they will stand up to protect their livelihoods, their local community and the opportunities available for future generations. They remain open to any discussions to avoid industrial action and to keep the plant open. They can be assured of my wholehearted support.”