UK auto workers union Unite said its representatives, along with MP Jack Dromey, today (4 March) met with Kwasi Kwarteng MP, the secretary of state for business enterprise and industrial strategy, about the clouded future of a GKN factory in Birmingham.
“The meeting was highly positive and Kwarteng committed the government to further discussions about how the future of the factory can be secured,” the union said in a statement.
The meeting was held following the announcement in late January by the factory’s owners, GKN/Melrose that it is set to close in 18 months time with the loss of over 500 jobs.
The factory produces drivelines for automakers and Tata Motors’ Jaguar Land Rover is its biggest customer.
Venture capitalists Melrose acquired GKN in 2018 following a hostile takeover and made clear commitments to investors and shareholders that it would invest in the business and create a “UK manufacturing powerhouse”.
During the meeting Unite raised the issue that, if Melrose refuses to rethink its decision, then the government should review whether the company should continue to receive public sector grants while it is “selling out UK workers by exporting their jobs to Europe”.
Unite has established a team of senior officials, shop stewards from the factory and local politicians, including Dromey, to develop a rescue plan to keep the plant open. This will not be a quick fix but a longer term initiative.
Unite said it would be asking the government to support the development of that rescue plan.
Unite national officer Des Quinn said: “Melrose is guilty of breaking its commitments to shareholders and investors. It claimed it wanted to build a UK powerhouse but the reality is it is planning to export UK jobs to Europe.
“Unite made the case to the business secretary that this is a highly viable factory that has a vital role in delivering the green and sustainable automotive sector that is essential for the success of the UK’s manufacturing sector.
“Support for the factory is also essential to protect its supply chain and to deliver on the government’s levelling up agenda.
“It was a very positive meeting and Kwarteng committed the government to further discussions to properly explore all options to keep the Birmingham factory open.”
Last month, Unite called on Simon Peckham, the chief executive of Melrose, to correct his evidence to the Business Energy and Industrial Strategy select committee. Peckham, the union claimed, wrongly told MPs the GKN Birmingham factory was only an “assembly plant” when it has manufacturing capabilities. Peckham allegedly also misdirected MPs by suggesting the work would be transferred to its factory in Bisenzio, Italy, which Unite said it understood was not the case.