TYRE FIRM SHEDS 300 JOBS
THE American owner of the West’s biggest tyre factory yesterday put 300 jobs at risk by announcing plans to switch production to Serbia.
The Wiltshire town of Melksham has been a centre of the tyre industry for nearly 130 years.
But the town’s biggest employer struck a devastating blow yesterday by announcing manufacturing of car tyres would cease, with the company consulting on 300 job losses.
Cooper Tire said the plant was no longer viable and it intended to ramp up production at its plant in Serbia.
In total it employs 732 people in Melksham, but it will retain its European headquarters in the town, plus the production of motorcycle tyres.
Production at the Wiltshire plant was stopped yesterday, with all staff being told late on Tuesday to convene at 3pm yesterday for a meeting in the car park.
It was there that they received the news that they feared.
Jaap van Wessum, general manager of Cooper Tire Europe, said: “We know the prospect of making positions redundant is difficult for our colleagues and the local community to consider.
“Unfortunately, the Melksham site is an older, smaller facility that does not offer economies of scale and it is the highest cost facility in the global Cooper network. Due to facility age and location in the centre of town, it is our current view, subject to consultation, that it is not economically feasible to modernise or expand there for light vehicle tyre production.
“It is important to underscore that if we ultimately cease light vehicle tyre production in Melksham, Cooper is not leaving the Melksham community. It is the home of Cooper Tire Europe’s headquarters, sales and marketing offices, Europe Technical Centre, and materials business. We plan to continue manufacturing specialised motorsports and motorcycle tyres at the Melksham plant. If redundancies occur, Cooper Tire Europe will still employ hundreds locally and continue to honour its existing obligations.”
The Wiltshire town’s MP Michelle Donelan said: “I am saddened to hear of the loss of jobs and my thoughts are with the members of staff who have been impacted and their families at this distressing time.
“I have spoken to the management team to understand the decision being taken and ensure that they are providing staff with the right level of support at this difficult time.
“I am visiting the site this week to speak personally to those impacted and offer any support I am able.”
Meanwhile, union bosses say the plant has been hit by the dumping of cheap inferior tyres from countries such as China.
Unite regional officer Tony Hulbert said: “These proposed job losses will be a hammer blow for the Coopers workforce and the community, sending shockwaves through the local economy.
“Unite will be doing everything it can to support our members through this difficult time.
“In the coming days and weeks Unite will be scrutinising the business case for these proposed job cuts and fighting for every job to minimise the number of redundancies. Unite will also be pressing bosses for guarantees of no compulsory redundancies.”
If the firm continues with its plan to stop making car tyres in Melksham it will bring to an end an industrial heritage lasting more than a century.
Cooper took over Avon Tyres in 1997, which had been making tyres in the town since 1890.
Cooper Tire in Melksham