Socialist Worker

Shock and anger at Michelin factory closure

by Sarah Bates
Issue No. 2630

Michelin in Dundee

Michelin in Dundee (Pic: Val Vannet/Geograph)


Workers are shocked and angry after Michelin announced it is to close its Dundee factory this week. It is devastating news for the 850 workers set to have their jobs axed. 

Bosses said falling demand for the smaller tyres that Dundee specialised in was behind the decision. 

Michelin recorded a net profit of £1.4 billion in 2017. Despite this, its Dundee manager John Reid said it was hard to make a “business case” for the factory remaining open. 

He said it was a “very difficult day for all out us” and “not a reflection of the performance of the plant or the people who have worked so hard here for so many years."

Michelin management have made it clear the closure is not because of Brexit. “The proposals are nothing to do with the UK’s decision to leave the EU”, said Reid.

But workers were furious—especially because they heard the story from the Dundee Courier newspaper the day before. 

They reported it took less than ten minutes for Reid to explain the planned closure in 2020.

Opened in 1971, the factory is one of the biggest workplaces in the city which has the lowest rate of employment in Britain.  

One worker said it was “a disaster”. 

“NCR shut years ago, then Timex. Michelin is the largest factory left in Dundee. 850 people have lost their jobs, that’s all I can say really."

Promised

Dundee is a stronghold of the Scottish National Party, and leader Nicola Sturgeon has promised to leave “no stone unturned" to secure the future of the factory. 

The company has already grabbed a £43 million handout from the Scottish government this year through its “Scottish Enterprise” scheme. 

And now bosses say finance secretary Derek Mckay should pitch them a plan for the site in the upcoming weeks. 

Sturgeon said the SNP government would look at “all reasonable suggestions” to secure a “positive future for the plant, its  workers and the wider community”. 

The Unite union has also pledged to defend the factory. 

Pat Rafferty, Unite’s Scottish secretary said “The workforce can be assured Unite will fight tooth and nail to save our factory, we will leave no stone unturned to keep this factory open.”

And the union boasted of working with Michelin management for two months to come to a deal. 

But their “flexibility agreement” would be disastrous for workers. Its two-year plan would mean job cuts and shorter shifts in the first year.

And the union proposes that if “market conditions had not improved” by the year two then there would be a further raft of redundancies and cuts in hours.

Occupy

Strikes and occupations have the power to defend the factory from closure. 

They even have the potential to win, like the Visteon car workers in 2009. Sacked with no notice or redundancy pay hundreds of workers occupied factories in Belfast, Basildon and Enfield. 

This action won them significant redundancy packages, and dealt a humiliating blow to the bosses.

Michelin workers should lead the fightback against greedy Michelin bosses, but the union leadership must get behind them. 

And they should demand that if Michelin won't lift the threat to every job then the firm should be nationalised.


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