Written by Jonny Williamson
Management and workers at the Cheshire-based Ellesmere Port facility have been kept waiting as General Motors deliberated whether to give the substantional investment to the UK or its factory in Bochum, Germany.
The investment is likely to not only secure existing jobs, but result in a spate of new hiring as production is raised to accommodate manufacturing of the latest Vauxhall Astra. Almost 700 new workers will be required as an additional job shift is introduced at the plant creating 24-hour production can be maintained, bringing the total to three shifts a day. The expectation is that the current output of 140,000 cars a year will rise over 50 percent again to 225,000. Every one of the current workers has been included in a consultation process to agree new working conditions and salaries.
The announcement by General Motors is thought to have been driven by persistent and compelling lobbying by the plant’s management team, union representatives and government officials.
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Upon hearing the announcement, Business Secretary Vince Cable, commented:
“Huge efforts have been made to try to secure the future of the Vauxhall plant at Ellesmere Port and the government has played an important role in making the progress we have so far.”
“The decision to ballot the workforce signals a very strong vote of confidence by General Motors in the UK automotive industry and is the culmination of weeks of hard work and behind-the-scenes talking between the company, the unions and the government.”
Cable, who personally flew to the US earlier this year to persuade GM Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson, that the UK factory was the most efficient plant in Europe, continued:
“This is a positive step. But we are not there yet. Important decisions lie ahead and I strongly encourage the workforce to support the recommendations of the union leadership and to see Ellesmere Port continuing to make great quality cars beyond the turn of the decade.”
“We hope that there can now be a speedy resolution so that the uncertainty can be removed and Vauxhall’s workers can get back to doing what they do best – making cars.”
Without this recent investment, analysts had predicted that UK production of vehicles for Vauxhall would stop, and that Ellesmere Port would ultimately be forced to close its doors before the end of the decade.
Simon Griffiths, Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS) Area Director North and West, explained:
“Firstly, the fact the new Astra will be built at Ellesmere Port safeguards 2,100 jobs, will create hundreds more on site and there are real possibilities that this will cascade down into the UK supply chain that supports production. Secondly, it is pleasing to see the workers overwhelmingly adding their support to new pay and working conditions, a crucial factor in ensuring a positive decision from General Motors.”
“Finally, it is yet another example of foreign owners investing in UK manufacturing and this doesn’t happen by accident...The latest figures from SMMT show a 9.3 percent increase in car manufacturing in April, which is 11.8 percent up over the first four months of the year. Everything is pointing to sustained growth in the UK automotive sector.”