The Government needs to make a support package for Jaguar Land Rover that will not only help it survive the recession, but make it a market leader when the economy recovers, the head of the union representing workers has said.
Derek Simpson, the joint leader of Unite, called on the Government to hurry up with its £13 billion plans to guarantee loans to the Midlands car manufacturer.
And he said the British Government needed to catch up with other countries in Europe, saying: “We need a Government strategy to help them take steps that we know industries in other countries are doing. The strategy of the Germans is they not only intend to survive, but to survive and hit the ground running when they return. They won’t have skills shortages, and the workforce will be in place.
“Other less forward looking organisations may have gone to the wall. It isn’t just a matter of surviving, it’s a matter of surviving and being able to deal with the competition afterwards. The Germans know that, the French know that, and the Swedish know that, and we need to be the same.”
Mr Simpson, spoke to Jaguar Land Rover workers at the car manufacturer’s Castle Bromwich and Solihull plants yesterday, saying Unite would be doing everything in its power to support manufacturing workers during the financial downturn.
The union reiterated its call for a £13 billion strategic support package from Government, similar to the support provided last year by the German, French and Swedish governments to their manufacturing sector.
Mr Simpson said: “The workers at Jaguar Land Rover are world class, they build outstanding products and exemplify British skill at its best.
“There are many other productive and efficient manufacturing companies like JLR across the Midlands in need of short-term support to help them through the credit crunch.
“It has been an extremely bleak beginning to the new year and there is no doubt that 2009 is going to very tough for working families across the country. Unions, the Government and business need to work together to support British jobs and British skills through strategic intervention.”
He said in decades of experience as a union official he had not seen market conditions as poor as they were at the moment. He added: “I saw Rover go down and I saw Peugeot go down, and I have never been in this position and seen such a dramatic catastrophe across the sector.
“People are obviously concerned but there’s an optimism based on the fact that they have got a business model that’s not collapsing. This is all to do with the current situation. I’m not saying that everything in the garden’s rosy, but there doesn’t appear to be a problem and when you look at some of the casualties like Woolworths they were in difficulty before the credit crunch. That’s not the case with JLR.”
The union welcomed the Government’s recent announcement to expand apprenticeships, and the support Gordon Brown announced on Monday to help 500,000 people into work or training who had been unemployed for more than six months.
And Mr Simpson said he hoped the Government would widen its plan to take in other struggling but viable manufacturing firms.
He said: “My gut feeling is that the Government will come up with some kind of package that will hopefully not just “save” the likes of Land Rover and Jaguar, but more generally in manufacturing.
“The majority of firms haven’t sought assistance so I don’t know. I would say that any company that’s a viable business that’s in difficulty because of cash flow really needs to be able to look for help.
“What would missing out on the package mean? That’s a decision for Tata to come up with, but if they cant get through this suppliers will stop supplying and we will be looking at a collapse, and the worst case scenario is a plant closure. And if that happens once it’s gone it’s gone forever and never coming back.
“The effect on the economy would be quite dramatic, to say the least.”