GKN Driveline workers have received their ballots for strike action and union bosses are urging them to vote yes.
GKN Unite convener Frank Duffy, Unite West Midlands Regional Secretary Annmarie Kilcline, and Erdington MP Jack Dromey all spoke at the meeting – as well as some of the 519 workers who face redundancy if owners Melrose close the Chester Road factory.
Workers who are making their minds up about whether to strike have already been threatened by Melrose management.
Frank Duffy said: “Workers have been given letters threatening them if they vote yes in the ballot. They were returned to management and then letters were sent to home addresses but again the workforce brought them into the factory and told management they were not listening. I could not be more proud of them.”
If workers strike they will lose pay and bonuses, but Unite the Union is already fundraising for workers welfare during the potential strike.
Erdington workers have been joined in solidarity by workers in Florence, Italy, where Melrose is also closing a factory, leaving thousands more employees jobless.
Mr Duffy believes they have been forced into taking the last resort, industrial action.
He said: “Melrose has undermined this factory for years, the internal market of GKN consistently meant our factory lost out but we were told it was fine because the rest of the company was profitable.
“There are 51 sites across the world but just one in the UK, where the business started, and they are closing this one. Germany would not allow it; France would not, and our Government should not let this scandal happen.”
“They have paid lip service to the workers throughout this sham, they call it a consultation but I call it a sham, but as soon as they made the decision to close us down in January that was it.
“We have done everything possible, including creating an alternative business plan for the plant, but we were ignored.
“We’ve had seven months of hell but are now at a point when they have to listen to us – that’s why I am urging everyone to vote yes on their ballot for industrial action.”
Erdington MP Jack Dromey has been holding weekly meetings with Unite officials since the Melrose revealed its closure plans, which he warned would happen during its hostile takeover of the British engineering institution in 2016, as well as lobbying the Government to take a more proactive role.
He said: “GKN has a remarkable 262 years of history which can be traced back to when it provided the cannonballs for the British to fight Napoleon. The company contributed to the building of the Spitfire which helped defeat the Nazis.
“The Chester Road factory is a vital part of the future of electrification of the industry and cannot be allowed to close.”
He added: “I know the workers have exhausted every avenue available to them and that is why I am backing their decision to take industrial action.
“For every worker who will lose their job at GKN a further two will lose their jobs in the supply chain.”
Several workers made emotional speeches during the meeting describing how much GKN Driveline means to them and their families.
Robert’s family has clocked up 74 years of work at the Chester Road site with his father and grandfather working at the plant before him.
Stuart Turner said: “I’ve been at the factory near enough from school and I know what a devastating impact its closure will have on surrounding areas like Erdington and Castle Vale.
“We need to send a message that we will not back down.”
Unite West Midlands Regional Secretary Annmarie Kilbride revealed a hardship fund has already been set up in anticipation of a strike for workers who will have their wages docked.
She said: “We need the Government to step in if they are serious about levelling up and keeping skilled jobs in this country.
“I urge everyone to support these GKN workers in whatever way they can.”
The result of the ballot for industrial action will be revealed at the end of July.