Luton triggers nationwide strike ballot at Vauxhall

Vauxhall could face strikes at all its UK plants after European bosses of parent company General Motors rejected pleas to keep its Luton plant open.

Unions argue the closure of the plant when the current Vectra model reaches the end of its life, with the loss of 2,200 jobs is not justifiable morally or economically. They believe GM will be unable to meet demand for the new model without Luton.A strike ballot of more than 9,000 Vauxhall workers is expected next week, with the result in the second week in February.

Officials from the TGWU, AEEU and MSF met GM bosses in Zurich on Tuesday to mount a ‘robust defence’ of car production at Luton and to make proposals such as reducing production but mothballing unused facilities.

Demand for the current Vectra is dropping as the model nears the end of its life. But a union spokesman said: ‘The company’s own figures show that when the new model is launched they won’t be able to meet demand and will have to increase capacity at another plant.’

The new Vectra is due to go into production early next year with Rüsselsheim in Germany as the main site. The TGWU said a proposal for Ellesmere Port to become a ‘flex’ plant for Vectra production alongside the Astra, was counter-productive.

‘Becoming a flex plant would be bad news for Ellesmere Port. It would reduce efficiency and make the plant less secure,’ said the spokesman. The company’s ‘disappointing’ response to the unions’ arguments left no option but to ballot for industrial action.

‘The workers kept their part of the bargain, agreeing pay cuts for new starters and new shift patterns. The company broke their part [of the deal],’ said the spokesman. As all Vauxhall’s workforce were covered by the 1998 deal in which GM promised the new model to Luton, they will all be balloted on strike action.

A march and rally in Luton tomorrow is expected to be supported by delegates from Ellesmere Port and other factories which have faced closure threats: Rover’s Longbridge plant, and the former Ford, now Jaguar, plant at Halewood.

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