By Jenness Mitchell & Ronnie Charters
A bus manufacturer has launched a consultation on plans to cut 160 jobs at its Falkirk site.
Last month, Larbert-headquartered Alexander Dennis Limited (ADL) announced 650 jobs across the UK were at risk of redundancy due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The company had been looking at a record year of sales, however since lockdown orders for new buses have plummeted.
The firm plans to cut 200 jobs at its site in Guildford, Surrey, 160 in Falkirk, 90 in Scarborough and 200 in support functions across its bases.
One Scots worker told STV News: “It’s totally devastating.
“This news has come at the worst possible time for everyone here.
“Folk here are really hurt and people are walking about not knowing what to do.
“They have taken full advantage of the Job Retention Scheme, but where is the job retention in this scenario.
“There’s just a feeling of betrayal about this.”
The company, which is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of double-decker buses, was bought by Canada’s NFI Group last year for £320m.
The changes at ADL are part of a wider restructuring programme also affecting sister companies in the US and Canada.
Despite making use of the Government’s relief schemes and cutting salaries, the firm said it must go through a process of restructuring to move to a “leaner, more flexible manufacturing model”.
The company said it entered into dialogue with the UK and Scottish Governments and other stakeholders, however there has been “no immediate visibility of the stimulus funding urgently required to support operators to place orders, making it necessary to begin the formal consultation on the proposed changes”.
Managing director Paul Davies said: “We have no choice but to implement these tough decisions to protect the company’s future health.
“We remain confident that the situation will improve in time, and we are well placed to take advantage when that happens, but right now we have to adjust to our new economic reality.
“We continue to call upon the UK and Scottish governments to urgently introduce meaningful support to facilitate demand for new buses and coaches, not only to prevent further damage to UK bus and coach manufacturing that could threaten additional production sites, but to help build back better with a green recovery that delivers cleaner air for our towns and cities.”
ADL said it was seeking voluntary redundancies to reduce the number of compulsory job losses.
Unite Scotland has pledged to fight for the jobs.
Scottish secretary Pat Rafferty described the announcement as “devastating”, adding the union will not allow the “savage cuts” to go unopposed.
He added: “There are a number of measures which the Scottish and UK Government can and must enact with immediate effect. This includes the UK Government bringing forward its order of 4000 new low emission buses and the Scottish Government implementing the Just Transition Commission’s recent recommendation that £500m be invested in the nation’s transport infrastructure including the manufacture of green buses.
“Unite is clear that any public money including new orders must be conditional on the company retaining jobs and keeping work in Scotland, and across the UK.
“The blame for this situation ultimately lies with the parent company based in North America. If these premature and needless job cuts go ahead then it will have a substantial impact on the nation’s green manufacturing capacity and make a mockery of any just green recovery.”
Responding to Unite’s claims of outsourcing work to Turkey, the company said this was only under consideration for a Berlin contract, adding: “The arrangements for the manufacture of this contract are entirely disconnected from the actions we are being forced to take in the UK as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The ongoing lack of clarity over the future trade relationship between the UK and the European Union threatens import tariffs and other costs which would make this and potential other European contracts commercially unviable if manufactured in the UK.
“As in other parts of the world where UK manufacture is not feasible, we have had to make contingency plans to ensure the contract remains viable.”