Vauxhall plant saved by GM

Thousands of jobs have been safeguarded at the 50-year-old Ellesmere Port plant today after General Motors announced it is to manufacture the new Vauxhall Astra in the UK.

by Rebecca Burn-Callander
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013
The deal is a real coup for the British government and union chiefs, who have been making the British case to GE’s big cheeses in Detroit in recent months. The Ellesmere Port base has been chosen as the manufacturing hub for the popular Astra model, saving 2,100 jobs and creating 700 more at the Merseyside factory.

Vauxhall staff clinched the deal overnight by agreeing to a radical new flexible working deal, which will see the introduction of weekend working and a third shift to keep production running 24 hours a day. Production is set to soar from the current 140,000 cars a year to 225,000

Last night, 94% of staff voted in favour of the new hours, and the deal has also been supported by unions. Although, with the threat of plant closure looming, you could argue that neither had much choice in the matter.  

Government denies that it offered GE any kind of sweetener for the deal, but Vauxhall will be able to take advantage of the Regional Grant Aid to help cover training costs. Business secretary Vince Cable is nonetheless keen to claim his fair share of the credit: ‘Huge efforts have been made to try to secure the future of the Vauxhall plant at Ellesmere Port and the Government has played an important role in making the progress we have so far.’

Of course, not everyone will be celebrating. Our gain is Germany’s loss, and the deal leaves Vauxhall’s Bochum and Rüsselsheim plants out in the cold. It’s quite the turnaround: for years, the closure of Ellesmere Port seemed a dead cert. Not because of low productivity - Ellesmere is quite efficient - but because it’s a lot more expensive to fire German car workers. But, GM has plumped to take those costs on the chin rather than wind up the healthier production facility. MT can hear Angela Merkel’s howl of rage from here.

These are heady days for the UK automotive industry. Nissan recently ramped up production at its Sunderland plant. Jaguar Land Rover is creating 1,000 new jobs in Halewood and Honda is doubling production in Swindon. On Monday, British-built vehicles helped to drive up the UK’s first trade surplus in cars since 1976.

Against a backdrop of recession and eurozone turmoil, at least the British car industry is still ‘brum’ ing.

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