Vauxhall’s Ellesmere Port plant down to four workdays a week

10 March 2020

10 March 2020

PSA Group will cut working days at its Vauxhall plant in Ellesmere Port to four a week. The move looks set to spark fresh fears of further job cuts at the troubled manufacturing site in northwest England.

The plant will work on ′extended hours' across the four days, according to Vauxhall. This means workers will match their current five-day week hours in the new shorter time frame. But the company did not rule out the possibility of layoffs.

Falling Astra Tourer sales

′We will now study the result of this decision and discuss with workforce representatives and trade unions whether there are any impacts,' Vauxhall said.

Mark Noble, the plant director, sent a letter to employees on 4 March explaining the change was due to falling sales of the Opel/Vauxhall Astra Tourer, which is manufactured at the plant. The letter, as seen by the Liverpool Echo, confirmed slip shifts would be removed as of 23 March, and four-day single shifts would take their place at a rate of 36 jobs per hour for most operations.

This has led to speculation among the workers that up to 170 jobs could be affected, although Vauxhall has not confirmed whether it could look to reduce its workforce at the plant.

As reported by the Liverpool Echo, a second letter sent by Noble on 5 March said, ′I understand that this is a significant decision and that it will cause unrest and anxiety amongst us all, but to do nothing would have been business suicide.'

′Obviously, the plant will have surplus headcount as of 23 March, and the plant will carry the surplus headcount until an agreement is reached with Unite [the union representing workers at the plant] on the way forward.'

A plant in trouble

Staff at Ellesmere Port were already aware of the plant's precarious position. Last year PSA boss Carlos Tavares restated that the UK will need to secure favourable terms with the EU or production of the Astra would be moved out of the country.

′Frankly, I would prefer to put it [the Astra] in Ellesmere Port, but if the conditions are bad and I cannot make it profitable then I have to protect the rest of the company, and I will not do it,' Tavares told the Financial Times. ′We have an alternative to Ellesmere Port.'

On 3 March, Tavares reiterated this to journalists in a conference call that replaced the cancelled Geneva Motor Show. ′The decision will not be taken until we have a clear understanding of the outcome of discussions between the British government and the European Union', he said. As any kind of deal is still a way off, the executive suggested the decision is unlikely to come before the end of the year.

The business has already confirmed that two plants will build the next-generation Astra in Europe, with RÜsselsheim in Germany being one of these. PSA Group also has a site earmarked in Southern Europe should a satisfactory outcome not be reached.