The Great Debate UK
Lord Mandelson was in buoyant mood on Thursday night.
The future ownership of British car-maker Vauxhall had finally been decided. U.S. giant General Motors agreed to sell its European unit — which includes Vauxhall — to Canadian car parts maker Magna and its Russian backers. According to Mandelson, this was good news for the Vauxhall’s 5,000 British workers as it removed the uncertainty over their futures. Everyone can get back to work making cars and live happily ever after.
But for Mandelson the game is only just beginning. He is putting on a brave face now but he must know it is not that simple. He says Magna has assured him to his face that the British plants in Luton and Ellesmere Port will remain open. But for how long? He cannot say. And at what cost? Again — the details are yet to be finalised.
The union leader at Ellesmere Port tells me that an earlier draft of Magna’s business plan called for 830 job cuts at the plant, about 40 percent of the work force. This will be tied to lower output and changes to the pension scheme. Meanwhile, both Ellesmere Port and Luton have no entitlement to build the newer ‘green’ cars that have become a staple condition for future state support. Ellesmere Port will build the new Astra from this month, but what about next decade?
- Professor David Bailey works at the Coventry University Business School and has written extensively on globalisation, economic restructuring and industrial policy, with particular reference to the auto industry. The opinions expressed are his own. -
GM declared itself bankrupt on Monday in one of the largest bankruptcies in U.S. history, in an attempt to seek protection from creditors.