The UK is reeling like the rest of US from the hemorrhaging economy… and throwing fruit certainly won’t help it any.
A total of 61,404 news cars were produced last month in the UK. That’s 58.7% lower than January 2008. A total of 51,272 new cars were made for export, down 54.2% from January last year. Domestic car production fell 72.3% to just 10,132 vehicles. Think about that for a second.
Carbuyers are simply not coming through right now. A recent survey conducted among 1,270 UK motorists by Auto Trader, shows that 35% are planning to buy a used car in 2009, with only a paltry 6% planning to buy a new car.
Where there is small demand, there must be small supply, so carmakers throughout the UK are trying to stop the bleeding with what some would call desperate measures.
First, plants closed for extended winter shutdowns. This makes sense, because keeping a plant running costs an awful lot of money, so shutting the entire thing down for a short while can have an enormous effect on their bottom line.
Second, jobs have been cut. On Monday, 850 jobs were cut at BMW's Mini factory near Oxford, prompting employees to pelt management with fruit. (Can you imagine a manager saying “Hey! I’ve been hit with an apricot! This has gone far enough. OK everybody, back inside!”? Throwing fruit is NEVER a good idea.) The following day GKN, which makes car parts, axed 564 jobs which was as they reported "entirely due to the dramatic and sustained reduction in customer orders".
Reports of layoffs, offers for early retirement, entire department shifts and even fires/re-hires as creative solutions to slow business keep stacking up. Case in point: about 200 workers at Land Rover’s Lode Lane factory have been sacked and re-hired on inferior terms and conditions, it was recently revealed.
Drivers, forklift truck operators and warehouse staff employed by logistics group DHL have received letters of dismissal in the wake of Land Rover’s decision to suspend the night shift at Solihull.
These shocked workers were essentially fired, and then immediately re-hired with cuts in wages and shifts in their shifts… tactics the company never could have gotten away with without sacking them all first.
The dismissals and re-engagements were revealed in a letter to employees from DHL Exel supply chain HR officer Jenny Ebrey, which – incredibly - read:
“Incorporation of the new terms and conditions will be treated as a dismissal and re-engagement. I am writing to confirm that under the legal process of dismissal and re-engagement your employment under your old terms and conditions has ended today, and you have been immediately re-engaged on new terms and conditions.”
Like the man said: “desperate times call for desperate measures.” Let’s hope these measures don’t last long.
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