Yet another UK car plant comes under threat of closure

In March 1998, one of UK's largest trade unions claimed that the long-term future of the Vauxhall (General Motors) plant in Luton is under threat.

On 19 March 1998, The Transport and General Workers Union (TGWU), one of UK's main trade unions in the motor manufacturing industry, warned that the long-term future of the Vauxhall (General Motors) plant in Luton (south-east Midlands), which employs about 4,500 workers, could be at risk. The TGWU national secretary for the industry, Tony Woodley, stated that: "The company has informed that there is a threat to the long-term future of the Luton plant. Most other European plants owned by General Motors have had the allocation of new models confirmed but as things stand there is no product earmarked to replace the Vectra at Luton."

Unions at Vauxhall, which say that closure of the Luton plant could have enormous knock-on effects, have spoken with ministers and are urging the prime minister, Tony Blair, to intervene and persuade the USA-based parent company, General Motors, to abandon any closure plans. Like Ford, Vauxhall already sells more cars in Britain than it builds there and it has three of the six top-selling models in the country. The unions argue that on this basis it would be unreasonable for the company to cut back its productive capacity in the UK. The situation also has other similarities with the recent case of the Ford Halewood plant (UK9801197N), in that the company has negotiated changes to work practices in its other European plants and wishes to do the same at Luton before it makes a decision over its future.

The unions say that they will be making it clear to General Motors that they want an investment and "sourcing" policy that is fair and even-handed across all its plants in Europe. They are therefore urging the company to work with unions and the Government to end the uncertainty over the plant's prospects.

The company described the union's announcement as "alarmist and premature" and after an eight-hour meeting with the unions,Nick Reilly, chair and managing director of Vauxhall, insisted that it was on the right road to cost-cutting and safeguarding the future of the plant.

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