Goodyear Dunlop announces closure of Wolverhampton plant

TYRE manufacturer Goodyear Dunlop has announced the closure of its Wolverhampton facility, blaming “changing market conditions”.

The mixing and re-treading factory employs 330 people and consultations with staff have begun.

Production is likely to be switched to lower-cost plants in Europe, Middle East and Africa.

The decision is another blow to the tyre making industry in the West Midlands and follows on from Dunlop Motorsport’s decision to close its plant in Birmingham with the loss of more than 200 staff.

Goodyear Dunlop said in a statement today that the closure of the Wolverhampton factory would “help strengthen the long-term competitiveness of the company”.

Regarding the future of its workers, the company said: “These proposals are subject to consultation with relevant employee representative bodies. GDTUK said it is determined to find responsible and fair solutions for all affected employees.”
The company said the proposed actions were needed to help strengthen its competitiveness in the face of a challenging business environment, increased competition and currency headwinds.

It said the closure would enable the company to align production capacity with market demand, decrease complexity and reduce structural costs in its manufacturing operations. It added that it would improve operational efficiency by locating mixing operations at its tyre production plants across the EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) region.

Erich Fric, managing director, Goodyear Dunlop Tyres UK, said: “We understand the impact the closure of Wolverhampton would have. We will honour our responsibilities and will do everything we can to support all employees who are affected.

“In the face of ever-increasing competition, we carefully considered several options. However we believe these proposals are needed to strengthen our competitiveness and ensure we have a sustainable business.”

Commenting, Cllr Peter Bilson, deputy leader of Wolverhampton City Council, said: “This is extremely disappointing news and we are seeking an urgent meeting with the company.”

He said the council recognised that while Goodyear was a global business that had to make global decisions, it still was a business with a deep-rooted connection to Wolverhampton and he urged it to reconsider its decision.

“Should the worst happen, we will work with Goodyear to explore what support can be offered to those facing redundancy, and draw on the help and advice of trade unions and partners to provide new training opportunities,” he added.

“A number of companies in the area are growing and we will do as much as possible to ensure those local people affected are able to compete for the new jobs being created by these businesses.”

The Unite union said the decision could devastate the local economy and claimed production was likely to be switched to what it claimed were less productive, less profitable plants in either France or Germany.

Gerard Coyne, Unite regional secretary for the West Midlands, said: “The closure of the factory and the loss of hundreds of skilled manufacturing jobs will be a devastating blow to the economy. 

“It is disgraceful that Goodyear did not have the good grace to tell the workforce first and instead workers found out that they could be out of a job through the local media. 

“It is a contemptable way to treat a loyal workforce. Hundreds of families will be now facing uncertainty and we will do everything we can to support them and the community in fighting for jobs and their futures.”
He claimed Goodyear had ignored the fact that employees at Wolverhampton were a productive workforce and decided to close the factory because UK workers were cheaper and easier to fire than their European counterparts.

Meanwhile, Birmingham-based Dunlop Aircraft Tyres has been quick to point out that it is not linked to the business that is closing.

Its chairman Ian Edmondson said: “Dunlop Aircraft Tyres is in no way connected to Goodyear Dunlop. It is an independent company that continues to expand with new orders and global expansion.

“In recent months, Dunlop Aircraft Tyres has announced that it is to open an aircraft tyres re-treading and distribution facility in North Carolina that will help it to increase its market share in the Americas.

“The company has also won significant contracts, including one of the largest in its 105-year history to support the world’s fleet of more than 270 Boeing C-17 Globemaster III military transport aircraft. And at last week’s Paris Air Show it announced a further two new deals.”