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Dunlop closure: Unions and politicians slam decision to move abroad

Nearly 250 jobs at risk in Birmingham after firm announces plan to shift production to France and Germany.

Dunlop Motorsport's premises in Castle Bromwich has been sold to Jaguar Land Rover

Unions and politicians have reacted with dismay after Dunlop tyres announced plans to shift manufacturing abroad in a move putting 241 jobs at risk in Birmingham.

In an announcement on Monday, Dunlop Motorsport Europe said it could not remain at its current site where tyres have been manufactured for almost a century , after its lease ends later this year.

However, unions, the city council and the local MP have greeted the news with confusion, dismay and anger after revealing the firm had been offered other city sites as possible alternatives .

But the company's regional managing director has said there is no other "appropriate site available locally" and will instead begin transferring production to existing plants in France and Germany.

The Labour MP Jack Dromey, in whose constituency the plant is sited, blasted the American-based company for "disgraceful behaviour" .

He said Dunlop had "agreed to examine all options of remaining in Birmingham at a Dunlop summit" which included looking at a relocation in the city, after a meeting arranged by Business Secretary Vince Cable was called to discuss the issue four days ago.

Mr Dromey said the company's announcement showed "contempt" for the city and the UK.

Road tyres have been manufactured in one guise or another on the Castle Bromwich site since the early 20th century.

In its heyday, almost 10,000 people were employed at the much larger Dunlop plant, however the majority of that site was re-developed for office and retail use several years ago - though it still carries the name Fort Dunlop because of those historic links.

The much smaller race tyre production plant is part of what remains of that heritage, which now looks set to finish when the lease comes to an end on September 1.

Sir Albert Bore, Birmingham City Council leader, described the announcement as "bitterly disappointing", calling Dunlop's decision "perplexing" in light of recent efforts to keep the company's operations in the West Midlands.

"As a council we have done everything within our power since last May to make it as easy as possible for Dunlop to remain in the city," he said.

"They have been offered several alternative sites including the Advanced Manufacturing Hub in Aston, The Hub at Witton and Prologis Park in Minworth - we've also considered any grant support that might be possible as part of our offer.

"I have personally written to Richard Kramer, Chairman, President and CEO of their parent firm Goodyear, in Ohio, to state our case.

"Given the UK's reputation as a centre of global motorsport excellence, it is a perplexing decision, and I would urge Dunlop to reconsider - it is not too late to rethink."

The Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) said the decision, while a commercial one, was nevertheless disappointing.

"The Business Secretary met Dunlop to offer our help in finding a solution that would protect jobs and keep the company in Birmingham," a BIS spokesman said.

Sir Albert Bore has urged Dunlop to reconsider the decision
Sir Albert Bore has urged Dunlop to reconsider the decision
 

"Whilst this is a commercial decision for Dunlop, it is very disappointing news, especially when local partners have worked hard to retain production in the area and have provided the company with a number of potential alternative sites to consider which would appear to meet its needs.

"Government and local partners will continue to work with the company, to provide support to those workers affected, and to help them move into new employment as soon as possible."

Sanjay Khanna, managing director of Dunlop Brand Europe, said: "Our strong preference was to remain on our existing site, but this has not proved possible.

"For several months, we have also worked closely with local agencies and authorities to identify local Birmingham site alternatives.

"Unfortunately no other appropriate site was available locally which would have provided continuity of supply to our key customers."

He added the company has begun informing and consulting with affected employees and union representatives of the Castle Bromwich site and said up to 241 jobs will potentially be affected.

Mr Khanna added: "We understand that this is a difficult time for our employees.

"It is important our attention is now focused on supporting the employees who will be affected.

"We will work with our unions and employees throughout the consultation process to provide support."

The proposal is subject to consultation with trade union representatives and has been shared with the company's European central works council.

In May last year, Dunlop said it had lost the lease on its current plant after Jaguar Land Rover bought the site as part of its expansion plans.

Dominic Hinks, GMB regional officer, called the news devastating for the factory's workers.

He said: " Only a couple of days ago the company met with Jack Dromey and Vince Cable and agreed to consider in detail alternative sites in Birmingham and, in particular, Aston.

"I am at a loss to understand how those options could have been explored in detail over such a short period of time."

He added the union had urged the company to keep manufacturing in Birmingham 18 months ago.

"Despite their promises that relocating in Birmingham was an option it is clear that the company have been disingenuous with us and more importantly its loyal workforce," he added.

Mr Hinks said he was seeking an urgent meeting with the company to discuss the announcement in detail, adding the union would ensure the company meets its legal obligations on the decision to shut the Erdington site.

Unite regional officer Andy Taylor said the union was "shocked and dismayed".

"Just four days ago they (Dunlop) committed, at a meeting convened by business secretary, Vince Cable, with the support Birmingham City Council, to seriously investigate the possibility of relocation in the Birmingham area," he said.

"Unite will not accept the company walking away from its commitments or its obligations to fully consult the workforce on this decision and will be looking to challenge and change the decision."

 

 

 

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