News that around 220 jobs are under threat at Kautex Textron in Ystrad Mynach has come, as one union official put it, “completely out of the blue”.
Just last month we ran a story about how one of its apprentices had saved the company £20,000 through an innovation. The 20-year-old now faces an uncertain future, alongside his colleagues, and serves as an example of what is actually being lost – the long-term investments in skills and jobs.
The factory on Dyffryn Business Park, which opened in 1970, makes car parts including water containers and nozzles – or ‘clear vision systems’ as its known in the industry
Brexit has been blamed for the potential closure of a company that has had a presence here for more than 50 years. Whatever the rights and wrongs of that particular argument, it is the hard logistics that exiting the European Union has brought that has seen the site fall under threat.
A spokeswoman for the company confirmed to Caerphilly Observer that discussions have started with the GMB union over staff reductions and the potential site closure.
She added: “Brexit, as well as the ongoing economic impact of Covid-19, are the key contributors to this decision.”
The automotive industry, and many others, rely on just-in-time supply chains. Extra paperwork and financial charges at the border, a result of the UK Government’s Brexit deal, means companies are looking towards moving operations into the EU as they find it difficult to import goods from the UK for customers in Europe.
GMB has called the losses “devastating” with some members working at the site for over 37 years. It said it was notified by the company before Easter that it was considering cutting the workforce. A decision to close the site within 12 to 18 months will be made by middle to late May.
Mike Payne, GMB senior organiser said: “This came completely out of the blue, no one was expecting this – least of all the workforce. This is devastating news for the workers, the local economy, and the entire local community in Ystrad Mynach and Caerphilly.
“From what the company has been telling us that their sales have suffered as companies that they supply their products too, are looking ‘more locally’ to source for their products. It seems as though we’re seeing more high-skilled well-paid jobs sacrificed at the Brexit alter.
“Right now, the consultation is open, and we’ve already spoken to Welsh Government who will provide support in providing diversification and retraining opportunities for the company and for its workers.
“Let’s be clear; GMB will fight for every job. We will pull every lever available us to ensure that every Kautex Textron worker has a future.”
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Calls for action to save jobs – but can anything be done?
Plaid Cymru’s candidate for Caerphilly for the Senedd election Delyth Jewell called on the Welsh Government to take on an “active role in the process to lay the groundwork for the next government to act straight away to try to save these jobs”.
She added: “Plaid Cymru repeatedly warned that Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal, which erected trade barriers and created a new layer of expensive bureaucracy for exporting, would have a detrimental impact on companies that depend on trade with Europe, and I’m deeply saddened to see this coming to pass in our local area.”
Labour’s Senedd Member and candidate for Caerphilly Hefin David said: “I’ve been in touch with Welsh Government regarding the current situation surrounding Kautex. They have told me that they are already in touch with the business directly and with the Wales Automotive Forum; and are currently looking at whether there is anything further that can be done to help.
“If anything can be done by the Welsh Government – it will be.”
In May 2019, car manufacturer Honda closed its plant in Swindon. A key supplier to that plant was Kautex Textron.
Caerphilly Observer has been told that the company has lost up to 60% of its sales.
Caerphilly Member of Parliament Wayne David said: “There had been some concerns that Brexit presented particular challenges to the automotive sector and this would seem to have been realised with the company saying it wants to bring production close to home.
“Kautex Textron are a German-US company and it is feared that it wants to move production to mainland Europe. At the same time Covid has placed a huge strain on the sector.”
According to BBC Wales, GMB said the company was looking at how it could expand into other products, with the potential to then cut just 44 people from the workforce.
Both the Welsh Government, through supporting redundant workers to retrain, and the company diversifying its products will only achieve so much though. The fundamental problem remains the UK Government’s bad Brexit deal.
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