‘Formula One’ engine strike safeguards jobs, ring-fences contracts

by - 2nd May 2012, 7.15 GMT

Workers at the high-end car components manufacturers, Mahle Engine Systems have voted to accept a package of proposals which Unite says will safeguard jobs and contracts for the immediate future.

The settlement – negotiated during two days of talks mediated by the conciliation service Acas – follows a 24-hour strike by the Kilmarnock workforce (pictured) against what they feared was a plan by the firm to run the factory down towards eventual closure.

The plant manufactures components, including highly specialised bearings used exclusively in all F1 engines, as well as parts for engines in Ford and BMW cars.

Unite says the new proposals, approved by 77% of the workers, give them a chance to demonstrate the plant’s profitability.

One Mahle worker told UnionNews: “We accept when the company says no-one can predict the future, but we can still draw up a 5-year plan for this place.

“We’re on a level playing field now, with an opportunity to revive the plant, based on realistic targets, where we can hold people to account – including the suppliers.”

Mahle operates an ‘internal market’ across its different factories in Europe, which Unite believed was being used to run the Ayrshire plant down.

The company still intends to make around 60 redundancies at the Kilmarnock factory, but Unite officials do not believe there will be any compulsory redundancies this year.

The new provisions include commitments that the plant will be able to quote for new contracts immediately and ring-fence previously threatened production for the next fourteen months.

Unite Regional Industrial Officer Jim Winter said: This is a significant breakthrough for the Kilmarnock workforce and represents a fresh opportunity for them to preserve their world class jobs and skills.

“Ten months ago senior management dismissively said to us the Kilmarnock plant did not have a future.

“Today we have an agreement in place that should change the industrial relations climate and enable all parties to work together to sustain profitable manufacturing.

“All we asked for was transparency and a level playing field to show senior directors this plant is profitable and viable. It’s been painstaking for the workforce but we now have that opportunity and the hard work starts immediately.”

Mahle executives have undertaken to hold fortnightly meetings with union reps to monitor operations, which officials hope will help ensure the agreed targets are implemented and management is held to account.