Tony Woodley, head of Unite, explains why LDV is a company worth saving.
Four million pounds – less than a bonus for a single bailed-out banker – is all it would take to save Birmingham vanmaker LDV.
That modest sum is what LDV is asking the government to provide to avert bankruptcy, which could otherwise happen as early as next week.
The closure of LDV’s plant would mean waving goodbye to more then 900 direct jobs – and thousands more in the beleaguered motor industry supply chain.
Once gone, those skilled jobs would never come back. With them would go the prospects for a genuinely “green” vanmaker, producing the first hybrid vans in Europe. But the government has been dithering. Two months ago I warned that without rapid intervention to support LDV while it sought a new buyer the company would collapse.
The whole vehicle industry has been a major victim of the “credit crunch”. Manufacturing is paying the price for a crisis made by the bankers in the City.
My union Unite believes that if taxpayers’ money can be used to bail out the banks, it should also be used to help vital industries through the recession. It makes more sense than paying out to workers thrown on the dole because of short-term economic problems. LDV can be saved. There is a serious and interested buyer for this company, Westar, which would keep these jobs in this country. The £4 million from the government is needed while the new buyers go through the books before hopefully closing the deal. It would be criminal to see LDV shut for want of such a small sum.
LDV’s problems are only the tip of the iceberg, of course. Across all industries – but particularly in manufacturing – and throughout the country jobs are under threat. That is why Unite is coming to Birmingham – the heart of industrial Britain – to march for jobs on May 16.
We are urging our members from all parts of the country to join the demonstration urging the government to put real, concrete action to help industry at the top of the agenda.
Business leaders like former CBI chief Lord Digby Jones are backing the event. It is a chance to give ministers a united message – act now to save industry. Tomorrow could be too late.
Measures we want to see include subsidising short-time working for companies in trouble, to prevent them laying off employees and closing plants which we know would never re-open.
We also need more financial help for manufacturing and action to get the credit flowing from the banks once more. We’ve put enough cash into the banks over the last six months, it is past time to see some of it coming out again in loans to industry.
I hope tens of thousands of people from Birmingham and the wider West Midlands will join us on May 16. It is the least we can do for the employees of LDV and so many other firms, staring redundancy in the face through no fault of their own.
Please join us – and stand up for our future as a manufacturing nation.
*For more information on the March for Jobs and to find out how you can take part, visit http://action.unitetheunion.com