Government questioned about loss of 170 Birmingham jobs at GKN

Government questioned about loss of 170 Birmingham jobs at GKN

Government Ministers are to be questioned about GKN’s announcement that it plans to close its aerospace plant in Kings Norton with the loss of 170 jobs.

Birmingham MP Richard Burden (Lab, Birmingham Northfield) will quiz Ministers from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, as he leads a Commons debate on the issue.

It comes a year after Business Secretary Greg Clark told the Commons that he had received legally binding guarantees from GKN’s new owners, Melrose Industries, about their intentions.

The Kings Norton plant produces high-performance windscreens and windows for both civilian and military aircraft. The company says that the factory will be run down over the next two years with its work being transferred to “other GKN Aerospace sites” or “low cost areas”, assumed to be overseas

Last year there were calls for Ministers to step in when a hostile takeover bid for GKN by Melrose prompted fears that the UK’s manufacturing base would be undermined in key areas such as aerospace and automotive manufacturing.

Greg Clark

However, Mr Clark said at the time that Melrose had provided legally binding undertakings about its commitment to manufacturing in the UK.

He told MPs last year that he would look to the company “to honour its commitments in both the spirit and the letter, and to create a strong future for GKN, its employees, its suppliers, and the industrial sectors in which it will play a major role”.

Mr Burden said today: “GKN argue that the Kings Norton plant is not viable but the first employees knew that its future is in doubt was when they were told less than three weeks ago that the company had decided to close it.

“I want to know whether they had said anything to Ministers before then and, if so, what alternatives to closure were suggested or examined.

“As things stand, the closure plan looks like a breach of faith with what was said last year and the company should think again.”

A Government Minister will respond to the debate.

Defence Minister Stuart Andrew said last week that the Government believes Melrose has not broken any promises because the work currently carried out at Kings Norton is to be “moved, not stopped”.

GKN, in Kings Norton
GKN, in Kings Norton

He said in a written answer to questions asked by Mr Burden: “As required by the undertakings provided last year, Melrose Industries have notified the Ministry of Defence of their intention to relocate Defence work from GKN’s Kings Norton site to other GKN sites.

“The MOD has discussed these proposals with Melrose and is confident that the important work that GKN does for Defence will continue.

“The MOD understands that there will be no overall reduction in GKN’s defence capacity, as the defence work is being moved, not stopped. On that basis there are no plans to issue a note of concern.”

In a statement earlier this month, GKN Aerospace said: “Having carried out a thorough assessment of our King’s Norton site, including our visible order book, capabilities and cost base, we have regrettably concluded that it does not have a long-term, sustainable future within the business.

“There will be no immediate operational impact.

“By taking this difficult decision now, we will be able to carry out a carefully managed site wind down process over a period of more than two years, leading to expected closure in 2021.

“Over the coming months and years, we will seek to support all employees, including the opportunity to apply for roles elsewhere within GKN Aerospace.

“We will now enter a period of consultation with nominated employee representatives.”

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