Michelin to close Dundee tyre factory

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Michelin has announced plans to close its Dundee tyre factory within the next couple of years.

The firm said the site, which has 845 employees, has faced “serious difficulties in recent years”.

Its troubles have been blamed in part on cheaper tyres coming in from Asia.

The trade union Unite described the move as a “hammer-blow” for Dundee, saying closure would be a “betrayal” of the workforce who have worked to make changes at the site.

The Scottish Government said it will “leave no stone unturned” as it tries to find a sustainable future for the plant.

In a statement on its website, Michelin announced its intention to shut the factory, which opened in 1971, by mid-2020.

It said: “Despite the Group’s continuous efforts, and the factory employees’ dedication to making the site economically sustainable through the implementation of several action plans – 70 million euro has been invested in recent years to modernise the site – the accelerated market transformation has made the plant unsuitable and its conversion is not financially viable.

“Against this backdrop, the Michelin Group has had to announce its intention to close the Dundee factory by mid-2020.”

Michelin said it will implement a personalised support programme for each of the factory’s employees and that it will work to help create 845 new jobs in the area.

It is to begin a consultation with employees and trade unions on the closure plans over the next fortnight.

In September, it emerged that jobs were under threat at the tyre factory amid an “influx” of cheaper foreign imports into the European market.

Production for the next three years at the site was expected to stand at no more than 5.4 million tyres a year, a level described by the firm as “significantly below capacity”.

At the time, Michelin said it was exploring all options to maximise the plant’s efficiency, with restructuring of work patterns and reducing its 850-strong headcount among the options being examined.

Unite Scottish Secretary Pat Rafferty said on Monday: “Unite has been aware of the challenging market situation facing the Michelin Group.

“This has been primarily due to the cheap foreign imports from Asia and as a result falling demand for premium tyres in smaller dimensions, which the Dundee factory specialises in producing.”

Speaking before the closure plans were confirmed, he said shutting the base would be a “hammer-blow for Dundee”.

He said: “It would be devastating and a betrayal of the workforce who have made major changes to working practices at the site in order to secure its long-term future.

“The workforce can be assured Unite will fight tooth and nail to save our factory, we will leave no stone unturned to keep this factory open.”

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard MSP said it was devastating news.

“The Michelin factory in Dundee has provided not just hundreds of well paid jobs, but much needed skills and training to a city which has suffered greatly as a result of deindustrialisation,” he said.

“It is now key that the Scottish Government does everything it possibly can to keep the factory open and protect jobs. This should include working closely with Michelin, trade unions and the Dundee community to provide urgent clarity on the current situation.”

The Scottish Government’s Economy Secretary, Derek Mackay, said he will be in Dundee on Tuesday, where he hopes to meet representatives of the workforce, the city council and the management team.

“My immediate priority is on trying to find a sustainable future for the site, that will protect jobs and I will leave no stone unturned,” he said.

“I was informed at the end of last week of the possibility of closure and immediately sought discussions with the senior management team at Michelin.

“I know the workforce and unions have gone to immense lengths to make the plant as competitive as possible to secure its future, and we will leave no stone unturned in trying to protect the future of the Dundee site.”

John Reid, factory manager at Michelin Dundee, said the news is a blow to staff and the city.

He said: “This factory has faced incredibly tough challenges before and we have come through thanks to the hard work and flexibility of our people and the union, and the backing of the Michelin Group.

However, the market for the smaller tyres we make has changed dramatically and permanently, and the company has to address these structural changes.

“The proposals are nothing to do with the UK’s decision to leave the EU, and they are absolutely not a reflection of the performance of the plant or the people who have worked so hard here for so many years.”

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