Union claims Camelon bus firm used pandemic as 'cover' to cut 650 jobs

A Camelon-based bus builder used the coronavirus pandemic as “cover” to cut 650 jobs and outsource work to Turkey, a union has claimed.

By Jonathon Reilly
Thursday, 20th August 2020, 10:32 am
Updated Thursday, 20th August 2020, 2:01 pm

Unite is calling for Alexander Dennis Limited (ADL) to “come clean” after it learned of a restructuring strategy detailing the job losses which, members say, was agreed by ADL’s parent company, NFI Group, before the outbreak of Covid-19.

With formal consultation over the cuts – effective at depots in Falkirk district, Guildford and Scarborough – imminent, Unite wants any support the government gives to ADL to be contingent on jobs being kept in the UK.

According to the union, an NFI Forward strategy was announced to investors in North America on August 6. It says the plan aims to cut costs by up to $75 million and potentially close a UK manufacturing site.

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The union Unite has claimed Alexander Dennis Limited planned to cut 650 of its UK jobs prior to the outbreak of Covid-19. Picture: Michael Gillen.

Unite also claims ADL plans to outsource a large bus-building contract for Berlin to a company in Turkey.

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Steve Bush, Unite national officer for automotive, said: “Unite will not allow Covid-19 to be used as cover to cut jobs.

“It’s time ADL come clean and explain exactly what its new ‘NFI Forward’ strategy means for the future of all three UK sites.

“It is utterly unacceptable for the NFI Group to announce restructure plans to investors which impact our members and hope we wouldn’t notice.

“Unite shop stewards are demanding an immediate halt on planned job cuts, full disclosure of plans to outsource major contracts to Turkey and a commitment to the long-term future of each UK site.”

An ADL spokesman said: “When the coronavirus pandemic hit, the ‘NFI Forward’ framework and a series of specific and immediate projects were developed out of necessity as a result of the downturn in the bus and coach industry.

“The arrangements for the manufacture of our European landmark contract are entirely disconnected from the actions we are being forced to take in the UK as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It is a heavy blow to ADL to have gone from expecting a record year rooted in a growth agenda to being forced to make redundancies to secure the economic future of the company.

“We continue to call upon the UK and Scottish Governments to provide meaningful support to stimulate demand for new buses and coaches, which would mitigate against further job cuts right across our industry.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Transport Secretary recently met Unite representatives to discuss the threat of job losses at ADL and our thoughts go out to the workforce at this very stressful time.

“This is a hugely challenging time for the whole economy and the bus industry is no exception. It will take some time for the sector to recover from the unprecedented impact of the coronavirus pandemic on bus operator revenues – and the knock-on effect on bus manufacturing.

“We are providing up to £109 million to increase and maintain bus services and are providing £10 million for bus priority infrastructure measures.

“In addition, we have maintained concessionary travel payments and Bus Service Operator Grants at pre-Covid levels and have also improved our existing offer for bus exhaust retrofit solutions.

“As part of a further package of support, we have introduced a £7 million Covid-19 Mitigation Fund, where ADL could benefit as a supplier of equipment to the bus industry.

“This is coupled with the launch of the £9 million Scottish Ultra-Low Emission Bus Scheme which aims to accelerate the deployment of electric buses is in line with Scotland’s ambition to move to net-zero economy – which again may be of benefit to ADL and wider supply chain.

“We are working very closely with ADL to explore all possibilities to support jobs in Scotland and minimise the impact of Covid-19. We stand ready to assist any staff affected should job losses take place.”

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