Peugeot buys Vauxhall: Ellesmere Port workers 'in the dark'

Ellesmere Port factory Image copyright PA
Image caption The Ellesmere Port factory has more than 2000 staff

Workers at Vauxhall UK's Ellesmere Port plant have said they are "in the dark" following a deal to sell General Motors' European unit, including Vauxhall, to a French firm.

The 2.2bn euro (£1.9bn) sale of General Motors to the PSA Group has also raised job fears at Vauxhall's Luton factory.

The two plants employ 4,500 workers.

BBC assistant political editor Norman Smith said government sources were "cautiously optimistic" about the future of car production at Vauxhall.

Live: Reaction to Peugeot deal

It is understood Business Secretary Greg Clarke received assurances there will be no change to pensions, jobs or production at Vauxhall up to 2020-21 and the chairman of PSA Group's managing board, Carlos Tavares, said he was not interested in closing plants.

The Unite union said the workers at Ellesmere Port and Luton have been through a "nerve-wracking fortnight" and its priority was to safeguard their jobs.

Image caption The Ellesmere Port plant produces Astras

One of the workers arriving at Ellesmere Port - which employs more than 2,000 staff - said earlier: "Everybody is in the dark at the moment.

"Job-wise we just don't know what will happen."

He added: "Hopefully, we'll find out more today."

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Image caption One of the workers said they were "in the dark" regarding their jobs when he arrived for work

Another said they had been told "it was fine until 2021", but the future of the site was uncertain after then.

He said: "I think the deal is a good deal for GM and Vauxhall employees themselves... but is there a future for young ones after 2021?"

He also raised concerns about pensions, adding: "Are they going to takeover GM pensions that we've all been paying into for 32 years? Is the money still there? We don't know."

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Image caption The first Vauxhall car was built at the Cheshire plant in 1964

Justin Madders, Labour MP for Ellesmere Port and Neston, vowed to fight to keep the plant open.

He said: "There is no doubt if it was shut down there would be a significant devastating effect on the economy, not just in Ellesmere Port but in the wider region.

"We have got to make sure we fight every step of the way to keep the place open."

Image copyright PA
Image caption The Luton site is a "very profitable, very efficient" said MP Gavin Shuker

The MP for the Luton plant, which produces Vivaro vans, said the government needs to strike a Brexit deal that will reduce uncertainty around the future of Vauxhall in the UK.

Labour MP Gavin Shuker welcomed the takeover, but said assurances needed to be made around the "very profitable, very efficient" plant which has eight years of production left.

The Luton South MP said freedom of movement is "hugely helpful", suggesting the government be prepared to bail out Vauxhall in a Nissan-style deal if Brexit negotiations do not go to plan.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The Luton plant produces Vivaro vans

The Ellesmere Port car plant was "close to closing" in 2012 when General Motors restructured its European operations.

An agreement to build new Astra cars safeguarded the future of the plant until 2020. It now produces almost 150,000 Astras every year.

Alison McGovern, Labour MP for Wirral South, tweeted she was working with Mr Madders and Unite for clarity on the future.

Labour councillor Phil Davies, leader of Wirral Council, said he has urged to government to keep the Ellesmere Port car plant open "for years to come".

He said it was "absolutely crucial" to the economy and if it closed it would have "devastating effects... in terms of families and their ability to make ends meet and quality of life".

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Astra is made at Vauxhall's Ellesmere Port plant

The boss of a supply chain consultants company said there was "clearly concern" the Ellesmere Port plant could close, because 75% of Astra components are sourced from the EU and the vast majority of the vehicles made at Ellesmere Port are sold outside the UK".

Richard Gane, from Vendigital, said: "Building cars requires a web of suppliers all feeding parts to assembly plants.

"If rumours are correct and PSA Group is planning to combine platforms with Peugeot's next new model, there would be a strong reason to exit the UK."

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