Unite has urged the UK government to follow the lead of the Spanish, French and German governments who have provided support to the automotive sector during the coronavirus pandemic.
Earlier this week the Spanish government announced a £3.3bn bailout of the automotive industry in the country, following similar action from both the German and French governments – who announced an €8bn rescue package for the automotive sector last month.
Meanwhile, UK car firms, their 168,000 employees and the hundreds of thousands of workers in the wider supply chain are still anxiously waiting for government support.
The UK car industry has seen thousands of job cuts recently, including 1,500 at dealership chain Lookers and 500 jobs lost at Aston Martin Lagoda.
Many more job losses across sectors are expected in the next few months as the UK furlough scheme is wound down, as the government has announced the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will end in October. In contrast, both France and Germany plan to continue their job subsidy programmes for at least the next two years. This has led the aerospace giant Airbus to warn that UK workers face “more permanent” job cuts than French and German workers.
Commenting on the news of the Spanish automotive bailout, and the disparity between furlough schemes between the UK and other European nations, Unite the Union has urged the government to do more to help the industry or risk being left behind.
Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said:
Spain has followed France and Germany in providing time-critical support to keep their automotive industries on the road and playing their part in meeting the need to switch to low and zero-carbon transport.
But in the UK, we’re now nearly three months into the government’s lockdown and our world-class automotive industry and the thousands of jobs that rely on it are in need of immediate assistance – as the 1,100 JLR jobs that went this week highlight.
Ministers must stop sitting on their hands and take action now with a package of support for the sector. This must include new vehicle discounts and incentive schemes, infrastructure investment and transition grants to support the manufacture of electric vehicles here in the UK and in line with industry approved proposals by the Society for Motor Manufacturers and Traders.
It is imperative that sales to public sector fleet replacements are brought forward, private fleet early renewals encouraged, and individual owners incentivised with discounts on new sales of all vehicles.
Additional grant support should be targeted at electric and hybrid vehicles, as well as for low emission diesel and petrol engines, ensuring revenue streams are protected to allow for vital investment in future technologies.
Government must move beyond the soundbite to ‘take back control’ of how we spend taxpayers’ money. Public procurement policy should prioritise the purchase of UK built vehicles, supporting further investment in domestic supply chains and infrastructure. Tens of thousands of good, skilled jobs are at risk.
With a clear plan of action these jobs can be retained and enhanced, our towns and cities can be cleaned up and the nation’s road transport system made fit for a green future.
Unite says Jaguar Land Rover job losses are “devastating”
As referenced by Steve Turner, this week Jaguar Land Rover announced plans to cut 1,100 temporary agency worker jobs from its UK production sites – a move the union has called “devastating”.
Following a pre-tax loss of £501 million in the three months to the end of March, the luxury carmaker is reviewing its operations in all of its UK production sites – including plants in Wolverhampton, Castle Bromwich and Halewood, Liverpool.
Unite national officer Des Quinn said:
This is a painful blow for a loyal workforce. Given the unprecedented drop in demand due to the Covid-19 pandemic it was all but inevitable that job losses would be announced.
It is another devastating blow for our auto sector and the communities that rely on them for jobs. We urge the government to get on with delivering the urgently needed sector support package, as other countries such as France and Germany have done, so that we can stem the tide of redundancies.
If workers are made redundant then Unite will ensure they receive everything they are legally entitled to.