TYRE FIRM SHEDS 300 JOBS

Western Daily Press - - Front Page - RICHARD BACHE richard.bache@reach­plc.com

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

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