JOBS in Rugby are under threat after GE Power announced plans to close its Leicester Road Power Conversion site.
General Electric (GE) has begun a consultation on proposals for an ‘organisational restructure’ of its Power division – which could see 1,100 redundancies across sites in Rugby and Stafford.
The company proposes to close the Leicester Road site and its Power Services factory in Stafford, and transfer some of the activities to other GE Power sites.
GE declined to reveal how many people it employs at the Leicester Road Power Conversion site. Around 500 staff will remain at the company’s Rugby sites.
A GE Power spokeswoman said the proposals were ‘driven by challenges in the power market worldwide’, adding: “Increased pressure in the marketplace, coupled with intense competition and continuing pricing pressures, means GE Power has been working to eliminate costs, remain competitive and prepare for 2018 and beyond.”
Trade union Unite warned GE of cutting ‘too far, too fast’ and demanded guarantees on ‘no compulsory’ redundancies.
Describing the news as a major blow to the Midlands’ economy, Unite vowed to fight to keep as many jobs as possible.
Unite national officer Linda McCulloch said: “General Electric is in danger of leaving itself ill-equipped to meet the challenges of the changing power generation market.
“These proposals will be a shock for General Electric’s loyal workforce and deal a major blow to the Midlands’ economy which will be deprived of highly skilled well paid jobs because of this announcement.
“Over the coming days and weeks Unite will be supporting our members and scrutinising the company’s business case as we fight to save as many jobs as possible.
“Unite will also be seeking guarantees from General Electric that there will be no compulsory redundancies and that there will be redeployment opportunities for workers wishing to stay with the business.”
Rugby MP Mark Pawsey said the news was ‘of real concern’.
He said: “I would like the company’s Rugby staff, and their families, to know I will be doing everything that I can to support them.”
He said he had met with representatives from the company and the local workforce in recent months, and would continue to do so over the upcoming consultation period.
He added: “I have also had a number of meetings with Government Ministers in the Business Department and the Ministry of Defence and have always impressed upon them the need to support the work that GE does within Rugby and how this work benefits many other local businesses in the supply chain.
“The GE staff here in Rugby are highly skilled and I know that there will be many other local businesses eager to benefit from their experience and expertise, and who I am sure will offer opportunities to workers potentially affected by this news.
“There will of course be a consultation period and I am confident that the workforce will make a strong and compelling case for Rugby. I will continue to do everything within my power to ensure that manufacturing jobs are retained locally.”
GE UK’s president and CEO Mark Elborne said the proposals were not made lightly, and understood the news would be difficult for many people.
He said: “Unfortunately, we believe these changes are necessary to ensure we can remain competitive and secure the future of GE Power in the UK.
“We have shared our proposals with employees’ representatives and will now begin a consultation period before any final decisions are made.
“GE remains committed to the UK, which will continue to be a strategic market for GE. We have almost 18,000 employees working at 65 sites in UK. Following this proposed restructure, we would remain one of the top five industrial companies in the country.”
General Electric bought Alstom’s energy business for £7.9billion in 2015, combining it with its existing power and water unit and renaming it GE Power, but earlier this year said it had “clearly performed below expectations”.
The UK cuts are thought to be part of a wider cull, with 4,500 roles to be slashed across Europe, according to French newspaper Les Echos.