VOX POP: Remembering Jack – “He was a Birmingham man; he was a local man. And he cared.”

VOX POP quotes & pics taken by Claire Taylor / Intro words & pics by Ed King

Soon after the announcement of Jack Dromey’s death on Friday 7 January, flowers and messages of remembrance started to appear outside his constituency office on Mason Road. – with further tributes flooding social media.

Many were in shock at the sudden and unexpected news, sharing their stories and grief both online and off.

Erdington Local took to the High Street he fiercely championed and asked for comment from some of his constituents – for our weekly VOX POP.

(Ed’s note… we used the headline quote to show how Jack Dromey was perceived, by many, as a ‘local man’ – despite being born in Middlesex. The full quote is the last in the VOX POP, which we felt was a testament to the fervour with which Jack represented his Birmingham constituency.)

Holding a position where concerns and complaints were part of the day to day, Jack Dromey heard first hand about the issues affecting people across Erdington – with many looking to his office for answers.

From large scale employment strategies to supporting school fundraisers and independent retailers, the ‘to-do-list’ in the local MPs office was often as varied as it was unending. But as Erdington’s elected voice in Parliament, it was down to Jack Dromey and his colleagues to work through it with tireless dedication.

When Erdington Local asked for comments on Jack Dromey’s death, and life, many people had many things to say – but not all were comfortable having their condolences captured on camera.

Thank you to everyone who stopped to share thier thoughts and stories with us, and to all who agreed to be featured in the article.

Remembering Jack memorial service on Sunday 16 January

A wider public memorial service is being organised by the Erdington Covid-19 Taskforce on Sunday 16 January, to be held outside the Co-op supermarket on Erdington High Street from 1:30/2pm.

Speakers will include colleagues from Jack’s constituency office, alongside figureheads from local organisations and community support groups such as Witton Lodge Community Association, Urban Devotion, Erdington Street Pastors, and Spitfire Advice and Support Services.

Jack Dromey’s political peers will also be attending, with further public condolences and remembrance coming from Liam Byrne MP (Hodge Hill), Jess Phillips MP (Yardley), Cllr Paulette Hamilton (Lab, Hollyhead, Birmingham Conservatives Leader Cllr Robert Alden (Con, Erdington), and Birmingham City Council Leader Cllr Ian Ward (Lab, Shard End).

The memorial for Jack Dromey is open to all members of the public – with the Erdington Covid-19 Taskforce inviting people to gather by the Co-op from 1:30pm, with the service scheduled to begin at 2pm.

A spokesperson for the Erdington Covid-19 Taskforce told Erdington Local:

“On behalf of the people of Erdington, partners of the Erdington Covid-19 Task Force have come together to organise this tribute event for Jack.

“His legacy went beyond politics. His tireless campaigning on behalf of constituents touched so many lives so we wanted to create a fitting tribute to a man who was progressive and impactful in positively changing lives and communities.

“It’s a chance for the people of Erdington to pay their respects to Jack, to reflect on his work and to share memories of him.

“It should be a great occasion, celebrating the life of a man whose commitment to improving lives made him a hero for the community he served with such passion and honesty.”

Here are a few more memories and messages of condolences from people on Erdington High Street.

Harriet Spencer, Oikos Café, Erdington High Street

“He used to come relatively frequently into Oikos and he would always order a strawberry milkshake, which we used to love.

“He was such a champion of the café and enjoyed that we were hear and all the things we did, especially the music event. It’s really a shock to the area and all of us.”

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Christine Scarl, Pype Hayes

“I heard that he had died… its such a shame. He was really good at letting us know what was going on in the area, we would always be getting the leaflets through the door and everything. It’s such a shame.”

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Pat Wandby, Stockland Green

“I’m sad that Jack Dromey died… it was a shock, he was a nice chap and he always seemed to be fighting for the workers – to help them keep their jobs.

“Like with the HP Sauce factory, which should never have been closed. And he was always fighting for the Jag (Jaguar Land Rover, Castle Bromwich) and other industries.

“He came to our house once over an issue with some garages at the back… I did have a moan at him about Stockland Green and the potholes on the road, by the chip shop. But since then it’s been done.”

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Vera, Holly Lane, Erdington

“He passed away, bless him. He did a lot for Erdington, as out local MP. He did a lot for Jaguar and everything else.

“He was a Birmingham man; he was a local man. And he cared.”

If you have something to say about any of the issues raised in this VOX POP (or anything else you want to tell us about) please email: mystory@erdingotnlocal.com

For more on Jack Dromey visit www.jackdromey.co.uk

NEWS: GKN workers have ‘exhausted every avenue’ as voting begins over strike at Chester Road factory

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

GKN Driveline workers have received their ballots for strike action and union bosses are urging them to vote yes.

Unite the Union held an online meeting last night to discuss industrial action and received messages of solidarity from workers across the world.

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.

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: Hundreds protest the planned closure of GKN Chester Road factory

Words by Adam Smith / Video & pics supplied by Unite the Union

On Wednesday 7 July, more than 220 people braved torrential rain to protest against the closure of GKN‘s factory on Chester Road in Erdington.

Unite the Union organised the protest in response to owners Melrose International’s announcement the sprawling plant would be closed next June with the loss of 519 jobs.

Workers have taken the first step to strike this summer and are expected to take a ballot on industrial action in the next few weeks.

Union representatives also protested outside Parliament in a bid to force the Government to back their alternative plan for the factory.

A defiant Frank Duffy, Unite Senior Rep, addressed the crowd at Sorrell Park, Pype Hayes, in the shadow of the giant factory.

He told Erdington Local: “We are not giving in. It does not make sense to close this factory, we have proved we can make a profit and we will do everything we can to stop Melrose.

“They want to throw 519 loyal, skilled and dedicated workers on the scrapheap.

“Could you imagine a French or German multinational company shutting its only home plant and moving the work to elsewhere in Europe, there would be a national outcry.”

Unite regional secretary for the West Midlands, Annmarie Kilcline, also attended the protest.

She said: “The protest demonstrated the strength of feeling among workers at GKN and the local community against the plans to close the factory.

“This is a highly viable factory which should be preparing to play a key strategic role in the move to electrify the UK’s automotive industry. Closing the factory would be an act of gross industrial vandalism.”

She added: “It is not just the workers at the factory who would be affected by the potential closure but hundreds of workers in the company’s supply chain and the local community would all  suffer job losses.

“It is essential that the government makes good on its promises to provide assistance and they work with Unite and local politicians to keep this factory open.”

Erdington MP Jack Dromey, who helped draft the alternative business proposal, backed the GKN workers.

He said: “What Melrose is doing to GKN is outrageous, I stand shoulder to shoulder with the workers in Erdington. If they decide to take industrial action then I will support them.”

Speaking at the rally, Birmingham City Council Leader Cllr Ian Ward had messages for both Melrose and the GKN workers facing unemployment.

He said: “Step in now and work with the workers at GKN to save this plant. Anything less is simply a betrayal of the hard-working, loyal & dedicated workforce.

“I assure you the city will stand with you and support you all the way in this dispute”

Despite the viability of the factory and potential massive Government backing Melrose still plan to relocate GKN operations from Chester Road to Poland.

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.”

Unite the Union and GKN workers protest closure of Chester Road factory

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