The beleaguered UK tyre industry was dealt a body blow this week with the announcement by US tyre maker Goodyear that it is to axe 500 jobs at its Wolverhampton plant.
The announcement followed a decision by the workers to reject a pay and conditions offer, which had been agreed with the unions. This would have limited the job losses to 300 in return for employees accepting pay cuts and a greater workload.
The future of the entire plant is now under threat, said Nick Matthews, principal fellow at the Warwick Manufacturing Group. ‘I have deep foreboding about the future of the Wolverhampton plant. The workforce may have unwittingly played into the hands of those in Goodyear’s US headquarters who want to close the plant completely,’ he said. The company said the decision by the workforce would make it ‘extremely difficult’ to build a future for the plant.
The UK tyre industry is struggling to survive, said Matthews, with consolidation in the European market, the strong pound and cheap tyre imports from the Far East making domestic tyre producers less competitive. ‘The quality of tyres is also much better, meaning the products last too long and people change their tyres much less often, while at the same time the bulk of UK car makers are downsizing, so their customer base is shrinking,’ he said.
A spokesman for Goodyear said the company regretted the impact the redundancies will have on Wolverhampton.
Goodyear slashed 650 jobs from its Dunlop plant in January last year, and the industry was hit again when Michelin ended nearly 75 years of tyre production at its Stoke-on-Trent plant in October, with the loss of 950 jobs. Michelin’s decision took to 3,000 the number of jobs lost in the sector in the year to October.
There are fears for the remaining 1,400 Michelin jobs at the Stoke-on-Trent plant in the steel wire and truck retread manufacturing division.