GKN workers in Birmingham to strike over factory closure

Automotive staff take action to save plant, with more than 500 jobs in line to be transferred overseas

First published on Wed 1 Sep 2021 08.23 EDT

Workers at the GKN automotive engineering plant in Birmingham have voted to strike in a campaign to prevent the factory’s closure.

The employees voted overwhelmingly for action to save the plant and more than 500 skilled jobs that are set to be transferred overseas.

The factory in Chester Road, Erdington, makes driveline systems for cars. The planned closure next year would be a further blow to the UK car manufacturing sector, and has outraged unions and MPs after assurances given by the parent company, Melrose, during its hostile takeover of GKN in 2018.

The ballot had a 95% turnout, of whom 95% of workers voted to strike. Unite has called on interested parties, including GKN’s customers such as Jaguar Land Rover, Toyota and Nissan, the government, and the plant’s bosses to reach an agreement on future production and support for Erdington to head off strikes in the coming weeks.

The union says the plant would have a key role in the transition of the sector to manufacturing electric vehicles, with new petrol and diesel cars banned from 2030.

The Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: “This is a tremendous result and shows the determination and confidence of the GKN workforce to fight for their jobs, their community and the long-term future of their plant.

“This is a highly viable plant which could and should be playing a leading role as the UK moves to the electrification of its automotive sector.

“It is now incumbent that everyone concerned with the future of GKN Driveline come together to hammer out a future for the plant and the UK’s supply of key components. The alternative is a long-drawn-out dispute that will damage both GKN and the company’s customer base.”

A GKN Automotive spokesperson said: “GKN Automotive is disappointed by the result of the ballot but respects the right of our colleagues to take legitimate industrial action. However, this does not change our difficult decision to close the Erdington plant.”

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