News abounds that Peugeot are in financial trouble. For those that really know me, they will know that this news is not what I would ever want to hear. Following Peugeot’s exit in manufacturing terms from Coventry and the UK in 2007 and the sometimes acrimonious campaign to retain it, some people might think this is some kind of divine revenge. Let me say unequivocally: it is nothing of the sort.
When I was Union Convenor of the Ryton plant, my sole aim was to retain the factory and protect jobs. Today, the position has not changed and indeed is even more vital when you consider the economy and how it has changed since the plants demise, almost seven years ago. Many Coventry residents work for Peugeot in the Parts division, at the Headquarters in Stoke or in the two dealerships in the city. Whilst there may be some signs of recovery in the economy nationally, locally Coventry and the sub region were hit hard by the closure of Ryton, with unfortunately the pattern continuing. Just the other day 300 jobs were lost at a communications firm in Coleshill, following hot on the heels of the Daw Mill fire and closure with 600 jobs up in smoke.
People and places take a lot longer to recover than you may often think. I remember at the time in 2006 there were people telling us there were jobs out there, so you didn’t need to worry. And it was true, there were jobs. The sad thing was, in too many cases those jobs came with insecurity and poor pay and conditions. There were some people who saw the closure as an opportunity and they took it and good luck to them. There are many though who have found it tough going flitting from job to job, with bouts of unemployment in between.
A task force was set up in 2006 when the plant closure was announced, known as the Peugeot Partnership. It was made up of local councils and other agencies. A report was published showing outcomes for workers who had lost their jobs. It was optimistic and you can’t blame it as the authors wanted to show the impact this sort of partnership working had. Unfortunately, years down the line it is impossible to know the real impact as people have moved on. I’ve met lots of workers from Ryton since its closure and it’s a mixed picture to say the least. Lots of warehouse jobs, supermarket positions and agency placements fill the CVs of many. What is remarkable though is one message which comes through from almost everyone I meet. They miss the factory. Not just for the pay and conditions but for the people, the laugh, the craic! Let me tell you, they didn’t always feel that way! Life experience does that to you.
So, as I read and hear about Peugeot’s financial plight I make this observation. Coventry has been good to Peugeot. And yes, Peugeot are good for Coventry. Stay and see it through. You will be rewarded with loyalty, hard work and security. In today’s ever changing fast paced world, sometimes you have to take stock, hold your nerve and see the storm through. Coventry and Peugeot are well placed to do so.