Vauxhall to axe 900 jobs

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The Independent Online

Motor giant Vauxhall is to axe 900 jobs at its UK car factory and cut production, the company announced today.

The Ellesmere Port factory on Merseyside will lose its night shift from the end of the summer, cutting production of the Astra model.

The firm, owned by General Motors, said the move reflected the "ongoing pressure" in the car industry to increase productivity and reduce costs.

Derek Simpson, general secretary of Amicus, said: "This is another devastating blow to the car industry and UK manufacturing in general."

The grim news was given to workers just after Chancellor Gordon Brown and Trade and Industry Secretary Alistair Darling arrived at the plant to meet senior managers.

Vauxhall chairman Jon Browning said the aim was to achieve the job losses through voluntary redundancies.

Shifts will be cut from three to two after the end of the summer shutdown in August.

Mr Browning said: "We will, of course, work together with our labour representatives to achieve a socially-responsible solution for the affected employees.

"The company's plan is to offer a voluntary package that allows us to avoid forced redundancies. For the people at Ellesmere Port, this is by no means indicative of a lack of progress made locally over the past several years.

"Indeed there has been much progress. Quality and productivity have shown significant improvements, but the issue of long-term competitiveness remains.

"We need to address this. This move will have positive effects on the cost structure of the plant. With more than 100 years of history behind it, Vauxhall is a very important brand for our company.

"We remain convinced that a manufacturing presence in the UK is desirable. We remain committed to working with the trade unions, Government and all other partners to enable Ellesmere Port to have a strong and vibrant future."

Carl-Peter Forster, president of General Motors (GM) in Europe, said: "GM continually monitors the competitive environment, the marketplace and the performance of its products across our global markets.

"Our industry simply cannot afford to stop continually improving productivity in its western European car plants.

"This is essential to compensate the higher cost base in western Europe and to secure the future, given today's competitive environment.

"Based on current operating costs and current product life cycle projections, the reduction of a shift at the Ellesmere Port plant will be the most cost-efficient approach to attaining necessary reductions in output.

"Together with our labour representative, we have searched for alternatives, but there is no viable alternative. The shift reduction will help increase the efficiency of the Ellesmere Port plant.

"It is something that works to meet current capacity projections, and not something we expect to see repeated at Ellesmere Port in the current Astra's lifecycle, nor is it an indicator of future product allocation decisions."

Mr Simpson said it was a big blow, especially after recent job cuts at other car firms including MG Rover, Jaguar and Peugeot.

"Our priority now is to make sure that there are no compulsory redundancies made at the plant and we are committed to ensuring that the Astra replacement comes to Ellesmere Port to ensure a long-term future for the people that are staying."

Amicus and the Transport and General Workers Union blamed "weak" UK employment laws for the job losses.

Unions argued that Ellesmere Port was the most productive of all GM's European plants.