NEWS: Jaguar Land Rover workers win back 12.2% pay rise after landslide vote against Company alternative

Words & pics by Ed King

Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) workers have won back a previously agreed 12.2% pay rise after a ‘workplace ballot’ took place last week.

In a landslide result, workers at the motoring giant “rejected” the alternative pay deal of 6% pay rise, about half of the rate of consumer inflation, and a one off and taxable £5000 pay out to help ‘combat the immediate cost of living challenges.’

Following weeks of negotiations between Unite the Union and the JLR bosses, with workers calling for the original agreement to be held, the decision was eventually put to a vote – with Unite telling its members they had been “obliged to listen” to JLR bosses but “you, the most important people, will have to be balloted.”

After JLR workers voted on Monday 11 July, a resounding message was sent to JLR bosses with over 84% saying ‘no’ to the alternative pay package.

And despite the new 6% increase being cited as JLR’s ‘final offer and there is no negotiation’, in a surprise U-turn an internal message from the car giant bosses stated:

‘Following the workplace ballot, the Jaguar Land Rover Trade Unions JNC has reported that the proposed offer of changes to pay and conditions of employment has been rejected.

‘However, as a result of the ballot outcome, the company can confirm that all Jaguar Land Rover hourly, A-D salaried and Business Protection colleagues will receive a pay increase of RPI+0.5%, in line with the original pay agreement.’

The reinstated pay deal will come in to affect for JLR workers from 1 October 2022 and is secured for two year.

Despite a strong victory for JLR workers, many at the Castle Bromwich plant are still uncertain about the car giant’s future – with around 3200 jobs in the balance if the Erdington assembly is shut down.

Workers report that internal notices for relocation or voluntary redundancy are “sent out regularly” with key top level management making surprise exits form the company, such as Grant McPherson – who acted as JLR Castle Bromwich’s Director of Operations for over seven years, Executive Director Manufacturing for over 3 ½ years, and helped sign off the ill-fated Merlin Agreement.

Grant McPherson left JLR in February 2022 to become Chief Operating Officer for Royal Mail.

Following the pay rise dispute, there are reports of many JLR workers also now losing faith in Unite, believing the worker’s union should have fought harder to keep the agreed package and had neglected their role by handing it over a worker’s vote.

One JLR worker, who wished to remain anonymous, previously told Erdington Local:

“People are fed up with the company pleading poverty all the time. The unions are so out of touch with their members it’s got to the point where we are cancelling our membership.

“We were promised and inflation based pay rise so the agreement made previously should be honoured.

“If I was a representative of the union, I would be asking the company why they can afford to make numerous managerial positions available and also paying agency workers £30 plus per hour to get customers cars ‘out of the door’.”

If you work at Jaguar Land Rover or have been affected by any of the issues mentioned in this article, and want to tell us your side of the story, please email: jlr@erdingtonlocal.com

NEWS: Jaguar Land Rover bosses pull the rug on pay agreement to keep worker’s wages in line with inflation

Words & pics by Ed King

Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) workers are set to lose a previously promised pay rise of 12.2% – despite company bosses agreeing the inflation led increase would be in place for two years.

In an ‘update on pay discussions’ letter sent to all JLR workers, the Joint Negotiating Committee – made up of JLR representatives and members of Unite the Union – explained how the car manufacturer had been ‘severely impacted by supply chain constraints’ and must renege on the previously agreed deal.

The letter continued to explain how the automotive giant was ‘not delivering the profit we need to reinvest in our business’ and how the previously agreed pay rise would add an ‘unbudgeted cost of £118m into the business this year and over £600m in the next five years.’

It further stated: ‘no business… can simply absorb such a cost’ and JLR were now forced to ‘find alternative ways to cover this shortfall’ – including pulling the rug on ‘reasonable and affordable pay increases for our colleagues each year.’

In place of the previously agreed and approved 12.2% pay increase, established to keep worker’s wages in line with consumer inflation, JLR bosses are now offering a 6% pay rise – at about half of the rate of consumer inflation.

Staff would also get a one off £5000 pay out in August 2022, to help ‘combat the immediate cost of living challenges’, although this ‘inflation easing’ lump sum would itself be taxable.

Unite the Union, who represent the JLR workers and make up part of the Joint Negotiating Committee at Jaguar Land Rover, issued their own letter to members following ‘a number of meetings’ to challenge the cut.

In a move by Unite many found frustrating, the union told their members how JLR were ‘not in a good place financially’ and put the fate of the pay deal down to an open ballot – with workers set to vote on Monday 11 July.

The internal memo from Unite, signed ‘in solidarity’, further explained: ‘We (Unite) have stressed how disappointed we are with this approach and that you, the most important people’, will have to be balloted.’

And whilst it was not clearly confirmed in the letter to workers from the Joint Negotiating Committee, the letter from Unite ended by saying:

‘The Company have stated that this (is) their final offer and there is no negotiation.’

But many JLR workers are now feeling let down by both Jaguar Land Rover bosses and Unite, with social media messages calling on them to ‘flood’ the trade union with messages explaining ‘how disgruntled we are with our dire representation.’

Rumours are also circulating about a vote of no confidence against the union at one of the JLR plants, although Erdington Local could not confirm this at the time of writing.

One JLR worker, who wished to remain anonymous, told Erdington Local:

“People are fed up with the company pleading poverty all the time. The unions are so out of touch with their members it’s got to the point where we are cancelling our membership.

“We were promised an inflation based pay rise so the agreement made previously should be honoured. It’s not our fault it’s into double figures.

“If I was a representative of the union, I would be asking the company why they can afford to make numerous managerial positions available and also paying agency workers £30 plus per hour to get customers cars ‘out of the door’.

“The ballot on Monday should not be even happening.”

Workers at Jaguar Land Rover are set to vote on the revised pay agreement from JLR on Monday 11 July.

If you work at Jaguar Land Rover or have been affected by any of the issues mentioned in this article, and want to tell us your side of the story, please email: jlr@erdingtonlocal.com

NEWS: Workers at GKN Chester Road factory vote ‘yes’ on redundancy package

Words by Ed King / Pics supplied by Unite, Jack Dromey MP, Google Street View

Workers at the GKN Chester Road factory have voted ‘yes’ to a redundancy package offered by GKN’s owners, Melrose PLC.

After months of fighting the factory’s closure, including the threat of industrial action in September, the 500 plus workforce have now agreed to take the severance pay.

Referring to the Chester Road closure as a “betrayal of a highly skilled workforce”, a statement from Unite the Union told how workers at the GKN Chester Road plant had “little option but to accept a redundancy scheme offered by GKN Melrose after the company refused to reconsider the union’s plan to save the plant despite the government’s request for it to do so.”

Melrose PLC announced their plans to close the Chester Road plant in January 2021, which would see the loss of 519 jobs and major disruption to the local automotive supply chain – GKN Chester Road are a significant supplier to the neighbouring Jaguar Land Rover factory.

Following intervention from Unite the Union, Jack Dromey MP for Erdington, Birmingham City Council Leader Ian Ward, and West Midlands Mayor Andy Street, Melrose eventually entered discussions to explore another possibility to the closure.

However, Erdington Local learned the multi-million pound venture capitalists took only a matter of minutes to reject any alternative plans – committing to the Chester Road closure and sealing the fate of over 500 workers.

A further vote was then passed by Chester Road workers to accept the redundancy package from Melrose PLC.

Following the announcement workers would be taking ‘a negotiated redundancy package’, Jack Dromey MP for Erdington said:

“What cannot now be allowed to happen is for the plant and the 519 strong workforce to be thrown on the scrapheap.

“This plant is a site of British manufacturing excellence with a world-class manufacturing capability. The skill and experience of the workforce is irreplaceable and the envy of many in the industry.

“It is utterly shameful that GKN/Melrose have chosen to close the plant and turn their back on this loyal workforce. The loss of 519 good, well-paid jobs in an area of high deprivation – the fifth most deprived constituency in the country – will be a hammer blow.”

“The closure of the plant by GKN/Melrose is a betrayal of the British national interest.

“Never again can our manufacturing base be left so exposed to the greed and short-termism of private equity-style firms who have no interest in the long-term strategic interests of the British automotive industry.

“While the company have chosen to walk away, I firmly believe that the Chester Road site can have a bright future through an alternative use being found.

“I will continue to work closely with the workers’ union, Unite, the Government, the Mayor of the West Midlands and the Leader of Birmingham City Council to explore this option.

“The workers can be assured of my unrelenting support to leave no stone unturned to keep production going and protect manufacturing in the West Midlands.”

Unite national officer Des Quinn added: “For 10 months our members at GKN have fought hard to save this plant but it is apparent that GKN Melrose was never prepared to reconsider its original decision.

“Having failed to get Melrose to change its mind, the government must not fail the GKN workers again.

“The government must play a dynamic role in finding a company to take over Chester Road and save as many jobs as possible in the process because these are the skills our country needs if we’re to step up to the demands of climate action.”

To find out more about GKN Automotive visit www.gknautomotive.com
For more from Unite the Union visit www.unitetheunion.org
For more from Jack Dromey MP for Erdington visit www.jackdromey.co.uk  

NEWS: Strike at GKN Chester Road factory ‘suspended’ until October

Words by Ed King / Pics supplied by Unite and Jack Dromey MP

The planned strike at the GKN Chester Road factory will be suspended until Monday 18 October, announced Unite the Union in a statement issued this week.

Scheduled to begin on Monday 27 September, industrial action will now be put on hold for at least three weeks whilst representatives of the 500 strong workforce finally begin talks with GKN owners Melrose PLC.

GKN workers, Unite the Union, and Erdington MP Jack Dromey have been calling for emergency talks with Melrose for several months, wanting to explore alternatives to closing the plant, but have been constantly rebuffed.

At the eleventh hour ahead of industrial action Melrose have now agreed to enter talks about the future of the plant, which provides essential drives lines for the automotive industry – including the nearby Jaguar Land Rover plant at Castle Vale.

A plan for the Chester Road factory had previously been put forward and hopes remain the Erdington site could play a key part in the electrification of the UK’s automotive sector, building the new propulsion units needed in electric vehicles.

Unite national officer Des Quinn said: “In the spirit of good will, the planned strike action has been suspended to allow for talks about the future of the factory with key stakeholders to take place.

“It is hoped that all sides can use this window of opportunity to secure a long term future for the factory.

“Unite is dedicated to advancing the jobs, pay and conditions of its members and will fight back against any efforts to diminish workers’ living standards.”

Since the closure was announced at the start of the year, MP for Erdington Jack Dromey has been working with Unite the Union to negotiate a deal to save the Erdington factory.

Mr Dromey added: “The reopening of negotiations between the workers, their union, Unite, and GKN/Melrose presents a real opportunity to secure a settlement to save the GKN plant from closure.

“The GKN workers and Unite have always been clear that they stood ready to enter any discussions to save the GKN Chester Road plant from closure.

“In the spirit of that commitment they have suspended strike action to allow these talks to now take place. In return, the company have made clear their commitment to pause any movement of works and machinery out of the plant.

“It is vital that all those involved in these talks now do all they can to keep the plant open and to stop 519 well-paid, skilled jobs being lost in one of Britain’s most deprived communities.

“The role of Government will be key to prevent closure and the export of production to Poland and France. The British Automotive industry needs high-quality components made here in Britain.”

To find out more about GKN Automotive visit www.gknautomotive.com

For more from Unite the Union visit www.unitetheunion.org

For more from Jack Dromey MP for Erdington visit www.jackdromey.co.uk  

 

NEWS: GKN Chester Road workers on ‘all out continuous strikes’ from September 27

Words by Ed King / Pics supplied by Unite the Union and Jack Dromey MP

Workers at GKN Chester Road’s factory will be on ‘all out continuous strikes’ from Monday September 27, a statement from Unite the Union announced today.

Earlier in the month, Unite the Union held a ballot for industrial action with 95% of workers who voted saying they were in favour of strikes.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “GKN’s cynical attempt to close its Erdington plant is a disgrace. We will not stand by and let this employer offshore British jobs without a fight.

“We will leave no stone unturned in the ongoing battle to ensure the future of the Birmingham factory and our members.”

Unite national officer Des Quinn added: “Melrose GKN has grave questions to answer, if it has taken government money for research and development and now intends to use what it has developed abroad, that is a betrayal of the workforce, a betrayal of Birmingham and a betrayal of UK taxpayers.”

In January 2021 GKN Driveline owners Melrose PLC announced plans to close the Chester Road, with production being moved to plants in Poland and France – making over 500 Erdington workers unemployed.

Hopes were the Erdington factory could play a key part in the electrification of the UK’s automotive sector, building the new propulsion units needed in electric vehicles.

But despite repeated efforts from Unite the Union, Jack Dromey MP for Erdington, and the Chester Road factory staff, Melrose have remained steadfast in their plans to close the Chester Road site.

In a previous statement, Melrose said: “GKN Automotive has fully considered the counter proposals put forward. However, the outlook for the highly competitive automotive market remains unchanged.

“Regretfully, therefore, we are proceeding with our proposal to close the site. Supporting our people continues to be our priority.”

Jack Dromey MP raised concerns over the future of the Chester Road factory when Melrose took over GKN back in 2018.

Since the closure was announced at the start of the year, Mr Dromey has been working with Unite the Union to negotiate a deal to save the Erdington factory.

In response to today’s announcement, setting the date for strike action as Monday September 27, Jack Dromey MP said: “For the past eight months, the 519 workers at GKN Chester Road have fought hard to explore all possible alternatives to closure of the Chester Road site.

“In that time, GKN/Melrose have rejected the workers’ comprehensive alternative business plan and since then have flatly refused repeated invitations to enter further discussions about how to save the plant from closure.

“GKN/Melrose have shown nothing but contempt for the workers and what is at stake for them and their families and also the great damage closure will inflict on the local economy.

“Faced with such intransigence by GKN/Melrose and their intention to push ahead with closure by summer 2022, the workers have been left with no alternative but to take strike action.

“The workers have mine and the local community’s 100% support. As their local MP, I and their trade union, Unite, will continue to explore all options to keep jobs and production at Chester Road.

“We believe there is a way forward and we stand ready to enter any talks to save the plant. GKN/Melrose and the Government must now show the same commitment.”

To find out more about GKN Automotive visit www.gknautomotive.com
For more from Unite the Union visit www.unitetheunion.org
For more from Jack Dromey MP for Erdington visit www.jackdromey.co.uk

NEWS: Strike action set for GKN Chester Road factory as workers ‘fight for their jobs’

Words by Adam Smith / Pics supplied by Unite and Jack Dromey MP for Erdington

Workers at GKN Driveline have overwhelmingly voted to strike in the face of the Chester Road factory being closed next year.

Unite the Union held a ballot for industrial action and revealed today 95% of workers who voted wanted industrial action.

Announcing the ballot result Unite declared if GKN’s owners do not back down over closure they “could see strike action hit the plant and customers over the coming weeks.”

There was a turnout of 95% meaning of the 519 workers facing redundancy 93.1% voted to strike.

Unite can now call a strike within the next six months providing they give GKN seven days notice.

In January this year, GKN Driveline owners Melrose announced plans to close the factory and have ignored Unite the Union’s alternative business plan to save the factory.

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.”

He added: “It is now incumbent that everyone concerned with the future of GKN Driveline including customers, the government, local politicians and GKN’s parent company Melrose PLC, 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.

“We have called an urgent meeting of all parties involved and expect both GKN, its customer base, as well as the government, to respond positively to a viable alternative plan to secure the plant’s future.

“The ball is now firmly in GKN and Melrose’s court and how they respond will dictate how this dispute will develop over the coming weeks and months.”

Erdington MP Jack Dromey worked extensively on the alternative business plan for the GKN plant and backed workers plans for industrial action.

He 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.”

He added: “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.”

To find out more about GKN visit www.gknautomotive.com

For more from Unite the Union visit www.unitetheunion.org

For more from Jack Dromey MP for Erdington visit www.jackdromey.co.uk