Jaguar Land Rover must regain trust of workforce, says MP Richard Burden
Jaguar Land Rover has been urged to repair workforce trust “damaged” by its new plan to close a factory at Solihull or Castle Bromwich as a campaign to protect thousands of Midland jobs went to Westminster.
Northfield Labour MP Richard Burden stepped into the controversy after a top-level London summit was called by unions to express concern at new plans by JLR to close either the Land Rover plant at Solihull or the Jaguar factory at Castle Bromwich.
West Midlands and North West MPs met for emergency talks at the House of Commons amid growing resistance by unions at cutbacks they fear threaten thousands of jobs.
West Midland MPs at the summit organised by Unite union included Mr Burden, Solihull MP Lorely Burt, Yardley Liberal Democrat John Hemming and Coventry North-West MP Geoffrey Robinson, a ex-Jaguar chief executive.
The meeting was called amid anger by unions at new plans to close either Lode Lane or Castle Bromwich, the veneer manufacturing site at Browns Lane, Coventry, and outsource some manufacturing overseas.
JLR says the cutbacks can be achieved without compulsory job losses but unions have strenuously disputed the claim. The new Business Plan was announced in late September, just over six months after unions agreed a one-year pay freeze and a four-day working week in return for no compulsory redundancies for two years.
But Mr Burden, a key figure in the fight to save Longbridge in 2000 after BMW had put the car plant up for sale, said: “JLR has a job to convince employees that they are in for the long game – they have a job of work to convince their employees of that. Employees have agreed wage freezes and job cuts but the company are saying that more needs to happen, including the closure of a plant.
"They do need to listen to some of the concerns that employees have. They do need to win back trust and there is a responsibility on them to do that. The fact that they (the unions) signed an agreement and it has changed so suddenly, the unions themselves would say that their trust has been damaged.
“They are clearly very concerned about the loss of a plant, they are concerned about the jobs of their members, which I can understand, and they have a wider concern about maintaining the critical mass of the industry in the region.
“There are very different narratives between the two sides and one of our roles as MPs is to get to the facts about what is happening. The important thing is to forensically examine what JLR are doing. There is also a real responsibility on the unions to do everything they can to help build a sustainable strategy for the company.”
Des Quinn, Unite regional industrial organiser, said: “The meeting was very useful. We have to look to have further discussions with MPs, and at Ministerial levels. We need to hammer out all the details.”
Jaguar Land Rover spokesman Jonathan Griffiths said: “Our position is the same as it was. It is important to stress that there will be no job losses.”