THE head of General Motors Europe warned yesterday that without government finance Vauxhall Luton and Ellesmere Port face immediate closure as ‘the obvious next step’.
Speaking at the Geneva Motor Show, Carl-Peter Forster said the two factories which employ 3,300 workers, will close if bail-out talks with the government do not bear fruit.
Pointing to a 38 per cent fall in new car registrations in the year to November, Forster said there were not many options left open.
‘We are very lean in the UK in Ellesmere Port, same in Luton. Obviously the next step would be the complete closure.
‘Obviously that’s what we try and avoid. But if we don’t get support from the Government we will have to close down.’
Forster said he had received ‘positive signals’ from the government regarding the prospect of financial aid.
Derek Chick, Director of Communications at GM Ellesmere Port, issued a press statement claiming that there was nothing to worry about.
He tried to insist: ‘In response to reports today that there is a threat to GM’s manufacturing operations at Ellesmere Port and Luton, it was highlighted during an official press conference at the Geneva Motor Show that Vauxhall was a very strong and successful brand in the UK and there are no plans for it to be axed.’
The Department for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform (BERR) spokeswoman, Rebecca Murrell said: ‘We have already worked hard to help GM in this country including a grant of £6.8 million from the Strategic Finance for Investment in England fund to secure manufacture of the new Astra which is due for production at Ellesmere Port later this year.
‘The Northwest Regional Development Agency has also supported the plant’s competitiveness for the future by providing £8.9m for training.’
A Unite spokesman said that the union is studying the company’s proposals and would be making a statement in due course.
All Trade Union Alliance Secretary Dave Wiltshire told News Line: ‘The strategy being adopted by GM Europe to split Opel and Vauxhall off and beg the UK and German governments for money to survive will not succeed in keeping any plants open.
‘This Labour government has no intention of giving money to bankrupt industries and it is solely committed to propping up the banks.
‘Any illusions that this can safeguard jobs is a complete deception.
‘Only the occupation of these car plants can guarantee their existence.
‘The situation is so intense that only occupation, nationalisation and the removal of this Labour government and the coming to power of a workers’ revolutionary government can solve this crisis in not just the car industry, but throughout all industry and the entire bankrupt capitalist economy.
‘We call upon all the unions involved to demand of their leaders either fight for every job through such a campaign or get out and make way for a leadership that is prepared to fight.’
• Second news story
BELGIAN POSTAL WORKERS’ 3-DAY STRIKE
THE workers of the Belgian Post Office have, for several years, made lots of efforts to prepare the company for the free market, as wanted by the EU Commission.
A union spokesman told News Line yesterday: ‘Now, we have to conclude that even an increase of 30 per cent productivity is not considered enough to protect our jobs in 2011.
‘This is although the Belgian Post shows a very healthy financial result.
‘They are cutting out the heart of the company. The postmen and women, who provide a daily delivery of mail and who have a social task in the Belgian society, are replaced by “low cost’’ jobs performed by casuals.
‘The Belgian Unions decided to go on strike. For three days in a row, there will be actions and manifestations, in the whole country.’
Over 30,000 Belgian postal workers began a three-day strike on Monday against privatisation to defend their jobs, pay and working conditions.
Postal unions held a demonstration through the capital Brussels on Monday.
Belgian national post service, La Poste, is one of the European mail operators whose shareholders have been linked with buying a stake in Royal Mail.
The Belgian post unions have been infuriated over Danish Post’s selling of its 24.9 per cent stake in La Poste to private equity firm CVC Partners for 373 million euros (£330m), making a profit of more than 200 million euros in three years.
The Belgian state owns 50 per cent plus one share of La Poste.