Workers at the GKN Drivelines factory in Birmingham, which produces parts for cars, will launch an indefinite strike from 27 September, in an attempt to resist the closure of the plant.
The closure, which is slated to take place in 2022, would see the loss of 500 jobs. A Unite statement said: “Due to the ‘just in time’ nature of the automotive industry supply chain, strike action will very quickly affect production at several of the UK’s car plants, primarily Jaguar Land Rover, but Nissan and Toyota will also be heavily affected.”
In 1976, workers facing job losses at Lucas Aerospace produced a plan to repurpose the productive capacity of their factories away from making military hardware and towards producing renewable energy technology and medical equipment. In a conscious echo of this approach, GKN workers have produced their own plan to save the factory by repurposing it to produce parts for electric vehicles.
Frank Duffy, the Unite convenor at the plant, wrote in a Guardian article:
“We realised that if we want to see a green future for the UK car industry and save our skilled jobs, we couldn’t leave it to our bosses and had to take matters into our own hands. We put together a 90-page alternative plan detailing how we could reorganise production to save money and make these new components.
“Ours is the first transition plan for an automotive plant proposed by union stewards in the UK, and an echo of the 1976 Lucas Plan, when shop stewards at Lucas Aerospace, also in Birmingham, proposed converting their plant to socially useful products.
“Now, as then, our alternative plan proposed saving jobs in Birmingham while transitioning the plant into an asset to support the wider UK industry. That’s a win for the workforce, the industry and the environment. If that isn’t what’s meant by the phrase ‘just transition’, I don’t know what is. However, Melrose declined to take our plan forward.”
Melrose is the investment firm which owns GKN. It is also pursuing job cuts at other GKN sites globally. On Saturday 18 September, 20,000 workers marched in Florence, Italy, in solidarity with GKN workers in Italy facing lay-offs.