Staff to vote on pay cuts

STAFF at a recession-hit automotive engineering plant are set to vote next week on a set of proposals aimed at helping secure its future.

STAFF at a recession-hit automotive engineering plant are set to vote next week on a set of proposals aimed at helping secure its future.

It is understood the 800-strong workforce at the Delphi plant in Sudbury face the possibility of a four day working week, a 10% pay cut and a compulsory three-week break in the summer as the company tries to combat the effects of falling orders while retaining its staff.

In February, the company pleaded for the Government to help it weather the financial storm with measures such as financial help for workers facing cuts in hours, but says that to date, no help has been forthcoming.

Human resources manager Steve Coppock said he was not prepared to comment on the content of the ballot, which was drawn up after consultation within the unionised plant. The plant makes diesel filters and injectors for trucks and a Chinese order had helped boost its fortunes this year.

“We did have a Chinese uplift in demand but that has now lessened and until our people have gone to a ballot, I'm not prepared to comment on what the deal is because it would not be fair,” said Mr Coppock.

The plant's local MP Tim Yeo visited the plant in February to hear about its problems first hand and promised to lobby Government on its behalf. It would like to see the kind of help being offered within the industry in other European countries, such as financial support for staff facing a cut in hours.

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“Our MP I understand continues to lobby the Government but nothing has come back to us,” he said.

Their customers wanted to place orders, but without the end user buying vehicles, it was proving tough, he explained.

“I have never seen anything like it. Nobody's buying vehicles, nobody's buying heavy goods vehicles, nobody's buying cars,” he said. “Until the end customer buys them, they can't buy from us.”

Staff had done some “marvellous things” to support the business, including supporting measures such as sabbaticals and the cutting of production hours, he said.

“Our people in general have co-operated throughout this recession and we are looking for their co-operation to continue,” he said.

“What we are trying to do here, and we have said right from the outset is, we want to preserve jobs for everyone and we have always said redundancies are a last resort. However, we are in the deepest recession in my living memory in automotive. It's hit us very hard. We are trying to work out how we can carry on without having to make people redundant. We have put a proposal to our people and they are going to ballot on it.”

The company continued to try to avoid redundancies, he explained. “If skills go out of the industry, they won't come back. We are trying to keep the skills in the business,” he added.