Against a backdrop of continuing Brexit uncertainty and declining demand for diesel cars, both Ford and Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) today (January 10) announced job losses across their businesses globally.
JLR said it would axe 4,500 jobs worldwide, but any UK redundancies are expected to be voluntary and few production roles will be hit, with mostly management roles at sites in Coventry and Gaydon to be cut.
JLR CEO Dr Ralph Speth said the cuts were taken “to help deliver long-term growth, in the face of multiple geopolitical and regulatory disruptions as well as technology challenges facing the automotive industry”.
The latest job losses come as the auto industry has suffered two years of declining sales which Unite has blamed in part on confusion over the government’s diesel policies.
The government has pledged to ban diesel cars by 2040, but has so far taken a piecemeal approach to ensuring a just transition to electric cars.
Unite believes the ban and mixed and misleading messages from ministers have prompted consumers to hold off on buying new diesel cars over potential concerns about their future value and environmental and health impact.
But in the process, consumers have kept their older petrol vehicles – which are in fact far more polluting compared to cars with new diesel engines, which rank among the cleanest and most efficient engines in the world.
Brexit uncertainty too has also had an impact on investment, while a slump in demand from China amid global trade wars is likewise contributing to a tough year for car manufacturers like JLR.
Today’s JLR job losses come in the wake of 1,000 temporary jobs axed last yearat the company’s plant in Solihull while staff at its Castle Bromwich plant moved to a three-day week. The latest downturn for JLR follows a decade of unprecedented growth after a buyout from Tata Motors in 2008.
Commenting on today’s job losses, Labour’s shadow business secretary Rebecca-Long Bailey said: “This is more concerning news for workers across Jaguar Land Rover today, who have suffered months of uncertainty, not least as a result of the government’s Brexit chaos.”
“The government needs to realise that the automotive sector from factory floor and right across supply chains desperately needs tangible support, not warm words,” she added.
Unite pledged to scrutinise the business case for the job cuts and confirmed that it expects any UK redundancies to be made on a voluntary basis.
“Jaguar Land Rover workers have had to endure a great deal of uncertainty over recent months as they continue to work hard to ensure the carmaker remains a global leader,” said Unite national officer Des Quinn.
“With record levels of new investment and models set to come on stream in its UK factories we look for Jaguar Land Rover to continue to be a global success and the jewel in Britain’s manufacturing crown.”
Indeed, JLR has also announced its intention to invest hundreds of millions of pounds in electric cars – the company has intimated that it aims to be electric-only within the next decade.
But Quinn added that the “UK government must play its part too” to secure a long-term future for JLR and other auto industry workers.
“Britain’s car workers have been caught in the crosshairs of the government’s botched handling of Brexit, mounting economic uncertainty and ministers’ demonisation of diesel, which along with the threat of a ‘no deal’ Brexit, is damaging consumer confidence,” he said.
“Government ministers need to wake up and start doing more to support UK’s car workers and their colleagues in the supply chain if Jaguar Land Rover’s recent success is to continue.”
Meanwhile, Ford has said it will make widespread cuts across its European operations, but no large-scale job losses are expected in the UK any time soon.
“Ford’s workforce in the UK is world class in making and developing engines and gearboxes that are shipped all over the globe,” Quinn noted.
“Unite is positively engaging with Ford over its plans as we seek to safeguard jobs and look after the interests of all the company’s employees in the UK,” he added. “We expect the immediate impact on Ford’s UK operations to be limited.”