Tayside and Central Scotland

Michelin workers' shock at factory closure

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Media captionMichelin workers in Dundee react to factory closure

Dundee Michelin factory workers have spoken of their shock after the company announced its intention to close the plant, with the loss of all 845 jobs.

The tyre factory will close by mid-2020 after the French firm deemed it "unsuitable" in the current climate.

Scotland's economy secretary Derek Mackay said he will convene an action group to "explore all options to secure a sustainable future for the site."

Workers were sent home until Thursday following a meeting at the factory.

Some employees told BBC Scotland they were angry that they first learned about the decision from the media on Monday.

One worker said: "When we heard yesterday we thought it was a wind up.

"I heard it through social media, which is a big disappointment.

"The factory manager said he's disgusted at how it's been handled, how it's been leaked to the press. "

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Workers were told of the factory's closure at a morning meeting

Workers spoke of a "sombre and subdued" mood at the meeting, which came 46 years to the day after the first tyre was produced at the factory.

One said: "NCR shut years ago, Timex - Michelin's the biggest factory left in Dundee. 850 have lost their jobs.

"The unions say they'll fight, but what can they do? France has made their decision."

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Media captionMichelin Dundee factory boss reflects on "difficult day"

Mr Mackay met representatives of the workforce, trade unions and Dundee City Council on a visit to the factory. He later spoke in parliament about the issue following an urgent question from local MSP Jenny Marra.

The minister said the Scottish government "will leave no stone unturned" and would do all it could to protect the workforce.

After his visit to the factory, Mr Mackay said: "I have met members of Michelin's group executive and they have agreed to consider a proposition that we will bring forward, to secure a sustainable future for the plant.

"Having spoken to the council, the unions, local politicians and UK government, I am confident there is a shared desire to work together to secure the best possible future for the site and its workforce."

Image caption Derek Mackay said the Scottish government "would do all it could" to protect the workforce

Michelin Dundee manager John Reid said the company made its decision on 9 October and it was "never the intention" for staff to find out the news in the manner that they did.

He said: "I think it's unacceptable they were put in that position.

"Clearly we have been operating in a very difficult market context for more than a year.

"We've had our volume cut three times this year.

"This year we actually produced the lowest volume we've ever produced in the factory, so it was clear that something fairly fundamental was happening."

How the designer tyre is hitting Michelin

By Douglas Fraser, BBC Scotland business and economy editor

The changing world of tyres

Is designer winning over bog standard?

19

Available general tyre sizes in 1997

120

Available general tyre sizes in 2018

  • 1,030 Niche tyre sizes avilable in 2018

  • 105,000 Michelin's total workforce

  • 845 Michelin Dundee's workforce

Reuters

If you've needed new tyres recently, you probably found that they had to be ordered and trucked from a distant warehouse.

It used to be that you could go into a garage, you might get a choice of three manufacturers, and there and then, the mechanics could haul any of the three off a storage rail.

What used to take 20 minutes now takes days, and often a lot more money.

The change is partly down to the business practice of limiting stock to reduce costs, and having car parts delivered to order. But it has more to do with the growth in the range of tyres.

Read more from Douglas

The union Unite has said the closure would be a "hammer-blow" to the city.

Michelin said the Dundee site, which opened in 1971 and specialised in smaller tyres, has suffered because of a shift in the market towards low-cost products from Asia.

The company praised its Dundee employees' dedication but said that, in spite of that and its own "continuous efforts", the plant could not be saved.

Image copyright Andrew Milligan/PA
Image caption The factory produced its first tyre 46 years ago today

The trade union representing many of the Dundee workers said it had not given up the fight to keep the factory open.

Unite's Scottish secretary Pat Rafferty said: "Unite has been aware of the challenging market situation facing the Michelin Group.

"This has been primarily due to the cheap foreign imports from Asia and as a result falling demand for premium tyres in smaller dimensions, which the Dundee factory specialises in producing.

"This will be hammer-blow for Dundee."

He added: "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.

"Unite will work day and night to ensure that all options remain on the table."

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