Cooper Tire to Cut Melksham Workforce by 20%
Cooper Tire & Rubber Company has announced manufacturing “realignment” plans that will see the company’s Melksham plant reduce its workforce by 20 per cent. According to a statement, the decision to realign production at the Melksham facility is a result of the company’s focus on its “strategic objective to create a sustainable and competitive cost position.” Company managers say the move is designed to enhance the company’s long-term performance, “while helping to mitigate the effects of the current economic downturn and the increases in its cost base.”
This means over the next year, the company will transfer some US tyre production to Melksham and other Melksham production to its Chinese production plants. It is this part of the realignment that will result in the reduction of the current work schedule. It appears that the bulk of the changes are taking place in the passenger car tyre manufacturing departments. A company spokes person told Tyres & Accessories/tyrepress.com that Cooper Tires does not know exactly which products will be affected, but will be communicating more information on this in due course. However, motorcycle and motorsport products are apparently not included in the changes and will continue to be manufactured in Melksham.
The realignment is set to take place at the summer shutdown next year. Redundancies will commence in July 2010 and will be completed by September 2010. Local newspapers are reporting that slightly more than 20 per cent of the 900-strong current workforce could lose their jobs with between 150 and 200 positions being cut, company representatives would not confirm the exact numbers. The latest round of cuts follows 46 redundancies in June. Production was suspended for a week in February and, according to local newspapers, the factory’s on-site fire service was shut down earlier this year.
“As part of our transformation process, we are committed to driving operational excellence on a global basis, which includes improving service and efficiency throughout our manufacturing facilities and supply chain,” said Julian Baldwin, managing director and VP of European Operations for the Melksham facility. “After conducting a thorough review of our entire operation, the realignment of our production will improve the effectiveness of our global manufacturing footprint.”
Roy Armes, chairman, president and chief executive officer, said, “The recent unprecedented increases in raw material and labour costs, and longer-term fundamental changes in the global economy were critical factors in our decision-making. This transition is seen as an important step in mitigating the effects of the current economic conditions on Cooper Tires and its customers.” Armes said, “Difficult decisions like these are taken very seriously. After a thorough study, it was determined that the capacity reduction in Melksham is needed to improve our near-term operating efficiency while securing our longer-term strategic position. We understand the impact of this announcement on affected employees, their families and local communities and are committed to handling these moves with great sympathy and sensitivity.”
Factory workers’ morale at “all time low”
Despite the company’s best efforts to handle the announcement of the news considerately, local newspaper reports would seem to indicate that their has been some resistance to the move. The Wiltshire Times quotes Cooper Tires staff as saying morale at the firm is at an all-time low. One worker, who works night shifts at the factory, said he only found out about the redundancies by reading the local paper’s website.