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Michelin closure is huge blow to Dundee, says manager

John Reid said a 'dramatic change' in the market for smaller tyres led to the plant's struggle.

Closure shock: Workers arrive at Michelin Dundee.
Closure shock: Workers arrive at Michelin Dundee. STV

The manager of Michelin Dundee has described the closure of the tyre factory as a "huge blow to the city".

John Reid, who has worked at the company for 26 years, said a "dramatic change" in the market for smaller tyres led to the plant's struggle.

Around 850 people work at the site in Baldovie Road, with Michelin one of the biggest private employers in the city.

The factory will remain closed until Thursday morning to give workers time to speak with families.

Following the company's announcement to close the plant in 2020, he said: "I understand that these proposals will come as a huge blow to our employees and to the city of Dundee as a whole.

"It's also a very personal blow for me.

https://stv.tv/news/north/1432553-the-historic-timeline-of-dundee-s-michelin-factory/ | default

"I have been part of Michelin Dundee for 26 years and I am very proud of the hard work and dedication shown by the team here.

"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.

"I am totally committed to supporting our employees throughout the whole process and beyond, and I know that commitment is shared by the Michelin Group."

'There are young guys in there with big mortgages and big financial commitments.'
Drew Morris, Michelin worker

Speaking outside the factory on Tuesday, Drew Morris, 55, who has worked at Michelin for 34 years, said: "I'll be OK - it is the younger guys I'm devastated for.

"There are young guys in there with big mortgages and big financial commitments.

"They have said they will support people - if you want to go and retrain as a gas fitter or something they will pay your fees.

"But the closure has come out of the blue.

"I didn't think it would close - they have done all this investment recently, and there's still investment work going on right now to reduce our carbon footprint.

"But the problem is people like big chunky tyres on big chunky cars and we don't make those here - and to do so they'd probably have to demolish the whole site and start again.

"These are good, well paid jobs in here - they're not going to be replaced by the service jobs coming up down in the docks and the city.

'We're disgusted at the way it came out. It shouldn't have come out like that.'
Michelin worker

"How is a man going to work in a hotel and keep a wife and two kids on that kind of money?

"It is a shame for the younger generation.

"They haven't blamed Brexit for this but how can it not be to do with that.

"Everything we make is imported then exported - if there are going to be problems at the borders how can that not affect us?

"Multi-national companies hate uncertainty and Brexit is uncertainty."

One worker who didn't wish to be named said: "We're a bit devastated, we've been here long time.

"A lot of older folk might be not bad but a lot of younger folk have just bought houses, they only got started five year ago. That's them gubbed."

Speaking about how workers learned the news, he added: "We're disgusted at the way it came out. It shouldn't have come out like that."

Another added: "In 34 years we were never told this was going to happen. The story last night was the first time we had heard it. It's a disgrace."

'Looks like I'll be looking for a new job, glad we are hearing it from the local press first'
Worker

Many workers also expressed their anger and disbelief on social media following the news on Monday night.

One wrote: "Looks like I'll be looking for a new job, glad we are hearing it from the local press first."

Another added: "Mental how everyone (including staff) had to find this out from the news today.

"Not even the slightest bit warning from their own employers."

A notice given to employees said the news "will have come as a shock to you and your families" and said they would have the opportunity to talk to a manager or member of the personnel team.

Explaining the reason for the proposed closure, the announcement said it was not economically viable for Dundee to produce small, low-cost tyres and a move to bigger tyres would be very expensive, with the capacity already existing elsewhere in Europe.

Support: Sturgeon has pledged to secure a future for the factory.
Support: Sturgeon has pledged to secure a future for the factory. PA

It said: "It is very important to understand that these proposals have nothing to do with the factory's performance. They are driven completely by the very significant market changes.

"These proposals are in no way a reflection of the Brexit context.

"To allow you time to reflect on this information and speak with your families, the site will remain closed until Thursday at 7am."

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon described the closure of the site as "devastating" and pledged to secure a future for the factory.

She wrote on Twitter: "The news from #Michelin is devastating for the workers there and for Dundee.

"@scotgov will do everything possible to secure a future for the site and support all those affected by this announcement."

Economy secretary Derek Mackay, who is due to visit the city on Tuesday, said: "This will be devastating news not just for those who work at the Michelin plant, but their families and the whole of the city of Dundee.

"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.

"I will be in Dundee on Tuesday and hope to meet with representatives of the workforce, the city council and the management team to discuss whether there are viable options for the future of this site.

"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.

Michelin
STV

"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."

Unite Scottish secretary Pat Rafferty said shutting the base would be a "hammer-blow" for the city.

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.

'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.'
Unite Scottish secretary Pat Rafferty

"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 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."

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