NEWS: Jaguar Land Rover workers left “baffled” by halt in production at Castle Bromwich, amidst growing fears over plant’s final closure

Words & pics by Ed King

Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) workers have been left “baffled” by a halt in production at the Castle Bromwich plant, amidst growing fears the site will finally close for good.

Production line staff working on the XE and XF models were ordered to down tools last month, with staggered sabbaticals issued after each ‘block’ had finished its workload – with those working on the ‘body in white’ stage sent home from 13 February.

Erdington Local has further been told the number of agency staff at JLR’s Castle Bromwich plant, employed through the Randstad recruitment agency, have been kept on site “painting and cleaning” or just “standing around doing nothing.”

According to staff at the Castle Bromwich plant, the recent halt in production has been known about since last year – with the down time being used to “help repurpose the site” and offer extra vocational training to full time employees.

It is also reported that Jaguar Land Rover have offered support for any community work undertaken by staff during the break.

JLR workers at the Castle Bromwich plant were initially told they would all be back on the shop floor from 27 March this year.

However, many now fear plans to stop all car production at the site – currently set for March 2024 once production of the F Type has finished – could be brought forward and they may not be back at work as planned.

One JLR Castle Bromwich worker told Erdington Local: “The current downtime is baffling as no one knows when, and if, production will start again.

“There is a senior shop steward openly telling people that Castle Bromwich is finished and all the planned projects are doomed to failure, which is in total contradiction to what management are saying.

“The people who wish to stay (at JLR Castle Bromwich) just want the company and union to be honest, but… I wouldn’t hold my breath.”

Erdington Local approached Jaguar Land Rover for comment and received a quick reply from the company’s head office, stating:

“Like other automotive manufacturers, we are currently experiencing some supply chain disruption, including the global availability of semi-conductors, which is having an impact on our production schedules.

“As a result, we adjust our production schedules to reflect this.

“We continue to see strong customer demand for our range of vehicles. We are working closely with affected suppliers to resolve the issues and minimise the impact on customer orders wherever possible.”

Erdington Local was then referred to the JLR Castle Bromwich administration, who have yet to provide any further comment.

During his two year stint as Jaguar Land Rover, erstwhile CEO Thierry Bolloré outlined plans to dedicate parts of the car giant’s Castle Bromwich site to extra services such as stripping down batteries and reconditioning used fleet vehicles for hire or resale – as part of his ‘Reimagine’ strategy.

With Castle Bromwich employees canvassed to sign up for the extra services, alongside further options to relocate or take voluntary redundancy, many staff believed a better future could be secured if they enrolled in the new teams.

However, Erdington Local has been told there is “no significant progress” in the new ventures, causing more concern the extra activities – and revenue streams – outlined in the ‘Reimagine’ strategy will not come to fruition.

Now with production halted at the Castle Bromwich plant, and reportedly no face to face communication from Unite the Union “in two and a half years”, the hundreds of JLR Castle Bromwich staff currently on hiatus are left to fear the worst.

A spokesperson for Unite the Union told Erdington Local: “Unite is totally committed to ensuring continued employment for all JLR workers on all UK sites.”

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: “A glimmer of hope” at Castle Bromwich plant as JLR boss Thierry Bolloré resigns

Words & pics by Ed King

Workers at the Castle Bromwich Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) plant have expressed a “glimmer of hope” after the shock resignation of Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Thierry Bolloré.

An announcement made by the JLR Executive Board, issued to workers and staff on Wednesday 16 November, told the car manufacturing giant boss ‘has today announced his resignation from the company for personal reasons’ and will be leaving on 31 December 2022.

Mr Bolloré further said how he was “immensely proud of what we have achieved at Jaguar Land Rover over the last two years” and that the “company’s transformation and acceleration towards a sustainable, profitable future as a modern luxury business is at great pace.”

It was also announced Adrian Mardell, JLR’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO), would be taking over as interim CEO.

Mr Mardell has worked at JLR for over 30 years, including over a decade in post as Deputy CFO and Group Operations Controller, and has been a member of the company’s Executive Board for three years.

But despite years of uncertainly and U-turns at JLR Castle Bromwich – including a fiercely fought battle to win back a previously agreed 12.2% pay rise – on hearing the news of Mr Bolloré’s resignation, workers at the North Birmingham plant remained optimistic.

One JLR staff member, who wished to remain anonymous, told Erdington Local: “the feeling on the shop floor is… well, this might mean car production at Castle Bromwich can continue. We don’t know, but there’s a glimmer of hope now.”

Thierry Bolloré, who has worked in the automotive industry his entire career and was previously CEO of the French car brand Renault, took over as CEO of JLR on 10 September 2020.

In February 2021, Mr Bolloré presented his ‘Reimagine’ strategy for JLR – embracing the electric car market and aiming to ‘reinvent the concept of modern luxury’ for the beleaguered British car brand.

But less than two years later and the six pure electric car models outlined in the strategy are nowhere to be seen, despite initial production scheduled for 2024 and a full roll out planned for a year later.

Initiatives that were reportedly announced at JLR included the renovation of old lease vehicles for second hand sale, and the recycling of old car parts – including batteries.

Whilst CEO of Renault, Thierry Bolloré oversaw an increase in the French car brand’s ‘circular economy’ and recycling of old Renault trucks.

However, at a series of recent ‘townhall’ meetings – where JLR senior leadership teams met with workers in groups of up to 200 – these plans were underwhelmingly presented to staff.

A JLR source continued: “It just wasn’t convincing… it felt they (senior management) were just reading from a script. The buzz word around here now is ‘rethink’.”

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

For more on Jaguar Land Rover visit www.jaguarlandrover.com