A CRACK team of politicians, industry professionals and union leaders will meet for the first time next week in a bid to prevent hundreds of jobs being lost in a factory closure.
Almost 850 workers face losing their livelihoods after bosses announced Dundee’s Michelin tyre plant will shut within two years, blaming a slump in the market and cheap imports.
Devastated employees were summoned to the Baldovie complex – which has been a feature of the city since 1972 – on Tuesday after News leaked to the press.
But Nicola Sturgeon has pledged to leave “no stone unturned” as ministers desperately scramble to save the site.
Slashing Business rates or providing financial aid are just two options being considered, and an “action group” tasked with securing a sustainable future has now been pulled together by Economy Secretary Derek Mackay.
It will meet for the first time on Monday, and will include Scottish Enterprise chief executive Steve Dunlop, Dundee City Council leader John Alexander and Scottish Secretary David Mundell.
Michelin trade union members will represent the workforce alongside plant manager John Reid, while leading Business experts have also been brought on board.
Mr Mackay said: “I have been clear that the Scottish Government will leave no stone unturned in our efforts to find a viable and sustainable future for the plant and its highly skilled workforce.
“The Michelin action group will work tirelessly in the coming weeks to explore all options and provide Michelin with a proposition that demonstrates what support can be offered, be it Business rates or financial aid, to help retain a presence in Dundee.
“Working with the workforce and industry experts, the group will examine how the plant could be repurposed for the future if Michelin decide to press ahead with the closure.”
Michelin insists it intends to shut the plant in 2020, but has agreed to look at any new proposals brought forward.
The French firm, which is the largest industrial employer in Dundee, previously said market forces were to blame for the move.
But some workers expressed anger and disgust after finding out about the decision via social media and the press.
Union leaders described it as a “hammer blow” for the city, which comes just weeks after it celebrated the opening of the £80 million V&A Dundee.
Councillor John Alexander, leader of Dundee City Council, said the Scottish Government had provided “unwavering support for the workforce and the city at this difficult time”.
He said: “It is imperative that the membership of the action group reflects stakeholders, experience and those with an ability to find solutions. I’m delighted to say that I believe those identified do just that.
“This action group will hit the ground running with one focus, to retain Michelin’s footprint in Dundee.”
It comes as pressure mounted on the UK Government to commit an additional £50 million to the Tay Cities Deal, aimed at bringing long-term investment to the area.
Holyrood ministers have pledged £200 million to the scheme, but their counterparts down south have attracted criticism after failing to match this and promising just £150m.
Similar deals in Edinburgh and Glasgow – which are helping to fund major infrastructure projects – received equal funding from both governments.
Meanwhile, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard urged ministers to examine whether any underspend by Scottish Enterprise, a quango aimed at boosting Business, could be used to help support the factory.
He also called on the Government to look at whether Michelin could supply tyres to its vehicle fleet, as well as the much larger fleets across Scotland’s public services.
He insisted contingency measures should be put in place to allow the plant’s 60 apprentices to complete their training elsewhere.
Source : HeraldScotland