Brexit uncertainty and govt bungling of automotive issues threatening UK car industry, Unite warns

A triple whammy of Brexit uncertainty, government confusion over diesel and ministers’ half-hearted support for electric vehicles is threatening the future of the UK car industry Unite warned today (Monday 8 October) as Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) announced a two week shutdown of its Solihull plant.

Describing news of the two week shutdown as deeply troubling with the potential to impact on the supply chain, Unite, the UK’s biggest union for car workers, said the government’s incompetence risked turning the UK car industry and its world class suppliers from “hero to zero”.

News of JLR’s two week shutdown starting on Monday 22 October follows a move to a three day week for 2,000 workers at the firm’s Castle Bromwich plant and an announcement in April to lay off 1,000 workers across its West Midlands’ plants.

No jobs are affected by the two week shutdown and workers will continue to be paid by banking hours. Unite is in close dialogue with JLR and is calling for the government to use the budget to back jobs and the car industry as part of a coherent industrial strategy.

Unite is urging the chancellor to rule out cuts to support for electric vehicles and to signal the massive investment needed in infrastructure as part of a transition – that supports jobs – to electric and alternatively powered vehicles.

Unite national officer Des Quinn said: “Government ministers’ trashing of diesel, despite the UK making some of the cleanest engines in the world, combined with their shambolic handling of Brexit is damaging the UK car industry and the supply chain.

“Add into the mix the government’s half-hearted support for the transition to electric and alternatively powered cars and you have a triple whammy facing the UK’s car workers.

“Over the past decade Jaguar Land Rover workers have worked tirelessly to turn the carmaker’s fortunes around. Ministers now risk turning them and their colleagues in the supply chain from hero to zero.

“The government must secure their future by getting a Brexit deal that secures frictionless tariff free trade with Europe. At the same time ministers must repair the damage done over diesel by supporting a ‘just transition’ to electric and alternative power vehicles as part of an industrial strategy.”

Unite acting regional secretary for the West Midlands Howard Beckett said: “News of the shutdown will be deeply troubling for JLR workers and their colleagues in the supply chain. JLR is a powerhouse of the West Midlands economy and a source for decent well paid jobs.

“Unite will be working closely with the company, while the West Midlands region gives our members maximum support possible through this troubling time. Going forward Unite will continue to press JLR on commitments for future models to be made here in the UK, but the government has serious questions to answer.

“JLR workers are world beaters at the cutting edge of the UK car industry and demand that this Tory government gets a grip on Brexit and meets their concerns for the future. Unite will be pulling 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.”