900 jobs go as Bosch shuts car parts plant

A struggling car parts factory is set to close, at a cost of 900 jobs, it was announced.

The Bosch plant in Miskin, near Cardiff, which makes alternators for the motor industry, is expected to shut at the end of an extended consultation period.

The company began an initial 90-day consultation period in October to consider two options - shedding about 300 jobs and carrying on with a smaller operation, or closing the plant in 2011 if no commercially viable new business was found.

Yesterday, Bosch said no new business has been found and the division in charge of the Cardiff plant will recommend to the Bosch board that production should be phased out and the plant closed.

The consultation period will be extended to the end of February so the plant council, union and plant management can agree the terms for the phase-out of production at the plant, before a final confirmation by the Bosch board.

A final decision will be known within the next few weeks.

Stefan Asenkerschbaumer, president of the starter motors and generators division, said: "I deeply regret that we could not find a solution for the Cardiff plant.

"I have spent time in a previous role as plant manager in Cardiff and I know first-hand the dedication and commitment of the employees here.

"Therefore, this is for me personally one of the toughest decisions in my career.

"However, with my responsibility for the whole starter motors and generators division the economic situation in the market leaves me no other choice.

"Without structural adjustment the long-term commercial future of the whole division is at serious risk.

"I am hopeful that the plant management, plant council and union will achieve a fair agreement and amicable solution for all employees during the phase-out of production at the factory."

All current production at the Cardiff plant will be transferred to and phased out in Hungary.

Sales for Bosch's alternator product dropped by 45% between 2008 and 2009.

It is expected to drop by a further 65% in 2010, a statement from the company said.

In 2007 the company investigated the possibility of introducing a new alternator product to Cardiff but analysis showed a new product could not be competitively manufactured there.

A statement from the company said: "The Bosch Group is currently facing the worst economic downturn for many decades and has been especially hit in the automotive sector.

"In parallel to this, the automotive industry is undergoing major change as core technologies are being completely transformed to accommodate demand for smaller, more fuel-efficient and less polluting vehicles.

"All this has left its mark on the Bosch Group in 2009, which will show a negative operating result for the first time in 60 years.

"The pressures to reduce cost in the automotive industry in the current market environment have increased considerably in comparison to recent years."

Employees, the plant council, union and representatives of the Welsh Assembly Government have been informed, it said.

The Welsh Assembly Government said the news was "a significant blow" for Bosch employees and said it would offer them its full support.

Ieuan Wyn Jones, Deputy First Minister and Minister for the Economy, said last night: "This is extremely disappointing news and a significant blow to the hard-working and highly skilled employees of Bosch and the wider community.

"We have been working extremely closely with the company over the last few months to look at all options available to keep the plant running and to develop other product lines, diversify or draw on the advanced research work of Welsh universities.

"We have regularly met with senior representatives of the company and today I met with them again to press the case for keeping the plant open.

"Despite our efforts, we deeply regret that Bosch have come to this decision to proceed with the option to phase out production.

"If this decision goes through, we will continue to do everything possible to help those affected, whether it is helping them find new jobs or gain new skills so they can start alternative careers.

"We are more than aware that the employees of Bosch are not the only people who will be affected by this, but also the many supply chain companies.

"We will now work with these supply chain companies to see how we can help them through this difficult time. I am also seeking urgent meetings with the unions to see what options are available to us."

Deputy Minister for Science, Innovation & Skills Lesley Griffiths said: "If Bosch does decide to go ahead with this decision, it will be a terrible day, not only for the employees of the company, but also their families and the wider community.

"If the company follows through these plans, the Welsh Assembly Government will step in and provide all the assistance we can and see if we can use our ReAct programme to help those who may be made redundant and see what we can do to support them develop their skills and find new work."

David Lewis, regional officer with the union Unite, said the announcement was "devastating".

He told the BBC's Good Morning Wales programme: "There should have been some alternative at a site this size, with the number of people they employ, that the company could have looked for.

"We were hoping for the engineering and development side of the plant to remain.

"The complete closure clearly is really devastating because I felt that we were making some ground in retaining that kind of skill in the site which does give you the chance in the future of something being built here."

Shadow economy minister David Melding called for a Welsh manufacturing strategy.

"The policies of the UK and Assembly Governments are making Wales a less attractive place in which to invest or do business," he said.

"We have the worst unemployment rate of any UK nation, one in four economically inactive, and large numbers of young people out of work. Today's news from Bosch only makes matters worse."

Plaid Cymru AM Chris Franks said: "Unlike previous recessions in the 1980s and 1990s when Wales was defenceless, we have a Welsh Assembly and a government that will not sacrifice our own people as we fight the ravages of the world's financial crisis."

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