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West of England Joint Committee urges government to protect GKN Filton jobs

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Written by: Hannah Baker | Posted 08 February 2018 13:44

West of England Joint Committee urges government to protect GKN Filton jobs

Bristol metro mayor Tim Bowles and the city’s mayor Marvin Rees have sent an open letter to the government, along with other members of the West of England Joint Committee, urging it to prevent a hostile takeover of automotive and aerospace company GKN.

GKN, which employs 1,600 people at its site in Filton and another 300 people at Western Approach in Avonmouth, is currently trading barbs with US turnaround investors Melrose after rejecting a hostile £7.4billion bid, which GKN said would “saddle the business” with a higher debt offer.

The letter, which was addressed to Secretary of State Greg Clark, urges government to “use its powers” to stop Melrose, which it says “offers little commitment” to the engineering giant and is likely to sell GKN on, putting jobs at risk.

The committee outlined in its letter how the aerospace sector provides more than 15,000 jobs in the South West, making the region the country’s largest sector employer.

It said: “The takeover would offer the real possibility of the division and sale of another great UK engineering company, one which has historic links to the South West and Bristol.”

It is believed a takeover could mean swathes of job losses as well as impacting supply chains, business confidence and research and development.

Read more: Major trade links can be made in China, says minister

The letter said: “GKN acts as an anchor for high productivity sectors in Bristol, supporting innovation and new business investment… The potential takeover could have serious consequences... There could be a loss of high-skilled well-paid jobs, which help support our regional economy."

It added: “National security is clearly in jeopardy if we cannot guarantee the long-term stability or ownership of the company.”
Employees at the Filton site are currently “seriously concerned” what might happen if a takeover occurs.

Dale Howarth, an employee at the site and a Unite union representative, said: “If this takeover happens I'm worried about what impact it will have for all employees.

“The threat of this happening is very real and something that is not to be ignored. The effect it could have on local families, businesses and a large proportion of the South West community is unthinkable.”

Melrose swooped on GKN after profit warnings in October and November following problems at its US aerospace division sent shares tumbling.

Anne Stevens, chief executive of GKN, said: "Melrose is trying to buy GKN on the cheap and with GKN’s own money, just at the point when our company is beginning to reap the benefits of its long-term investments."

Cllr Matthew Riddle, leader of South Gloucestershire Council, added: “As a signatory to the letter sent earlier this week, I am keen to see the Secretary of State use his powers to prevent the hostile takeover of GKN.

“The loss, or break up of GKN would threaten the objectives of the industrial strategy and bring uncertainty both to the sector and the significant supply chains supporting companies like this.

"I will continue to support GKN at this unsettling time and work closely with the other West of England leaders and Government to ensure that we are doing everything in our power to support the sustainable growth of our aerospace and engineering sectors at Filton.”

 GKN Letter

GKN Letter

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