Vauxhall's Ellesmere Port plant 'came close to closing'

Ellesmere Port A deal to build new Astra cars safeguarded the future of the Ellesmere Port plant

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The outgoing chairman and managing director of Vauxhall Motors has revealed how close the UK came to losing a major car plant in 2012.

The Ellesmere Port car plant was put at risk when General Motors restructured its European operations in 2012.

The factory would probably have closed without a deal cut with unions, Duncan Aldred told reporters on Monday.

An agreement to build new Astra cars safeguarded the future of the plant until 2020.

In 2012, Vauxhall parent company General Motors (GM) was considering the closure of one of its European plants.

The UK's Ellesmere Port and the US motor giant's Opel plant in Bochum, Germany, were thought to be at risk.

Duncan Aldred, the outgoing chairman and and managing director of Vauxhall Motors, indicated last night that at the time he feared for the future of Ellesmere Port, which employed more than 2,100 workers.

"It was probably going to go," he said.

Pay freeze

Mr Aldred said the company worked with trade unions to put together a case for saving the plant, including a series of "groundbreaking workplace initiatives".

A deal was struck with the Unite trade union, which included a four-year agreement covering pay and conditions.

Workers agreed to a two-year pay freeze, the potential to work up to a 40-hour week, and for the plant to operate up to 51 weeks a year.

In May 2012, GM announced that Ellesmere Port would build a new generation of the Astra car, securing the future of the plant through to 2020.

Last December, GM confirmed that its Bochum plant, which has been producing cars for more than 50 years, would close by the end of 2016.

Mr Aldred, who is taking up a new post with GM in Detroit, also said that he thought overall UK car sales this year could grow by as much as 5%.

That is significantly higher than the rise of about 1% forecast by UK industry body, the SMMT.

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