Unite has warned that Brexit uncertainty is damaging Britain’s world-beating car industry, as Jaguar Land Rover confirmed plans to lay-off over 1,000 workers in the West Midlands.
The union said it would be working to retain as many jobs as possible and giving full support to Jaguar Land Rover workers today (Monday 16 April). Describing the news as a blow to the West Midlands economy, Unite warned ministers that faltering consumer confidence, combined with the government’s aggressive approach to diesel and its ‘red lines’ determining the UK’s trading relationship with Europe, were harming the sector.
Figures from Jaguar Land Rover for March, a traditionally strong month, were down 26 per cent for the UK. Meanwhile, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders showed that new registrations across the UK industry fell in March by 15.7 per cent compared with the same month last year with diesel registrations down by 37.2 per cent.
The influential trade body cited economic and political uncertainty and confusion over air quality plans as the main factors affecting confidence, resulting in declines across all sales types.
Commenting Unite national officer for Jaguar Land Rover Des Quinn said: “This announcement is a blow for a top class workforce that has worked hard to turn Jaguar Land Rover’s fortunes around in recent years.
“It should be a wake-up call for minsters and have alarm bells ringing in the highest levels of government.
“Confusion over diesel cars prompted by badly thought through ministerial announcements, plus faltering consumer confidence allied with Brexit uncertainty are the major factors behind this announcement.
“With falling car sales a sure sign that consumers are tightening their belts, the government needs to get the economy out of the slow lane and provide certainty over the UK’s future trading relationship with Europe.
“Time and again auto companies, like Jaguar Land Rover, tell us that they need existing trading relationships to prevail once we leave the European Union. We need the government to say emphatically and without doubt that they will.
“Minsters also need to help ensure a ‘just’ transition from diesel and petrol engines to electric powered vehicles to secure decent high skilled jobs in the UK as part of a vibrant industrial strategy.
“In the coming days Unite will be working closely with the company in our fight to retain jobs while giving our members the maximum support possible through this difficult time. Going forward Unite will continue to press Jaguar Land Rover on commitments for future models to be made here in the UK.”
Unite assistant general secretary for legal services and acting regional secretary for the West Midlands Howard Beckett said: “Jaguar Land Rover is a powerhouse of the West Midlands economy and a source of decent well paid jobs. News of lay-offs will obviously be unsettling for workers and their families and send shockwaves through the supply chain.
“Our fear is that the jobs toll in the wider economy could reach 5,000. Losses on this scale demand concerted government action, nationally and in the region.
“Unite will be giving its full support to the workers affected and seeking to work with employers and key figures, such as the West Midlands mayor Andy Street, to ensure we retain skills in the region and find jobs for those facing redundancy.
“Jaguar Land Rover workers are world beaters at the cutting edge of the UK car industry. Unite will pull every lever we can to make certain that the carmaker continues to play a leading role in the life and economy of the West Midlands.”