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Vauxhall chairman reveals Ellesmere Port plant was close to shutting

Outgoing Vauxhall chairman, Duncan Aldred, has revealed for the first time just how close the company’s Ellesmere Port plant came to closure in 2012. At that time owner General Motors (GM) was undergoing a radical restructure of operations across Europe. This followed the financial crisis of 2008 and the subsequent US government bailout of the ailing Detroit giant.

Outgoing Vauxhall chairman, Duncan Aldred, has revealed for the first time just how close the company’s Ellesmere Port plant came to closure in 2012. At that time owner General Motors (GM) was undergoing a radical restructure of operations across Europe. This followed the financial crisis of 2008 and the subsequent US government bailout of the ailing Detroit giant. The result of the restructure plans was the possibility of the total closure of Vauxhall’s Ellesmere Port facility. According to Mr Aldred, this was close to becoming a reality and would have taken place but for the successful negotiation of a deal with the unions at the plant.

At the time, GM was considering closing one of its plants in Europe. The two facilities in the firing line were thought to be the Opel factory in Bochum, Germany and the Vauxhall plant at Ellesmere Port. According to Mr Aldred, Ellesmere Port was favourite for closure and was “probably going to go.” The chairman said that he had feared for the future of the 2,100 workers at the factory. What saved the factory was a series of “groundbreaking workplace initiatives” thrashed out between management at the factory and trade union representatives. This allowed a deal to be agreed that included four years of agreements on pay and conditions.

The Ellesmere Port workforce agreed to an initial two year pay freeze and a working week of up to 40 hours. The deal would also see the plant operating for 51 weeks a year. The plan was a success and in May 2102 GM announced that the new models of the popular Astra car would be built at the plant. This will secure the future of the factory until 2020. In contrast, GM confirmed in December 2013 that the Bochum factory would close before the end of 2016. The plant has been making cars for more than half a century.

Mr Aldred is now bullish about the future of the British car industry as he prepares to depart for a new job with GM in Detroit. He has predicted that car sales in the UK could rise by up to 5% this year, in contrast to the 1% rise forecasted by industry body, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. With sales and profits now rising at Vauxhall, however, it will perhaps not be too long until the workforce at Ellesmere Port feels that it should have a larger slice of the action.

 

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