A prominent trade union has criticised the “lack of a coherent blueprint” to help safeguard more than 500 employees at a Sudbury factory earmarked for closure.
The South Suffolk Taskforce was formed last year, after the announcement that the Delphi Diesel Systems site in Newton Road would wind down and cease operations by August 2020, impacting the jobs of 520 people.
But the Unite union argues it is unclear what the body has accomplished in the last six months, claiming it had not consulted the union or the workforce on the plant’s closure, although this is disputed by South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge, who chairs the taskforce.
Delphi explained the closure is due to a decline in sales of diesel fuel injectors and filters, which the factory produces, but United cited a report by Syndex that says the company has a unique position in the UK economy and has a viable future.
Neal Evans, Unite regional officer, said: “Taskforce members have been to the site to talk to the management, but we understand that no-one from the workforce has been consulted, which is a strange omission and gives a one-sided view of the firm’s future viability.
“It is clear the Sudbury site can have a prosperous future and has a workforce with the manufacturing skills that the UK can’t afford to lose as it faces economic challenges post-Brexit.
“That’s why the apparent lack of a coherent blueprint from the taskforce is very worrying.
“Unite feels it could have made an effective contribution to its deliberations, but we were not invited to do so.
“We believe that the best option for this site is that another company takes it over and develops it in a proactive manner – and we are working towards that end.
“If the Government’s industrial strategy means anything, it should be safeguarding a world-class site, such as that in Sudbury.”
Mr Cartlidge said that, so far, the taskforce had held a site visit with stakeholders and a follow-up meeting to discuss the site’s future, with the next meeting at the plant planned for May.
He added that the group’s main objective is to look at the long-term prospects of the local economy, in addition to the Delphi situation.
“This is not about instant and short-term results, but the future of this strategically important site in Sudbury’s economic makeup,” he told the Free Press.
“As the local MP, I have met with members of the Delphi workforce, and discussed the closure with the Delphi leadership, the Business Minister, and officials from the Department for International Trade. All these conversations are ongoing.
“The purpose of the taskforce is to look at the long-term competitiveness of Sudbury so that, whatever happens at Delphi, we have done everything to secure our young people’s future.”
The taskforce includes representatives from Suffolk County Council, Babergh District Council, New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), New Anglia Growth Hub and Job Centre Plus.
Chris Starkie, Chief Executive at New Anglia LEP, said: “New Anglia LEP is working with Delphi, local authorities and other partners to ensure the best possible outcome for staff, local businesses in the supply chain and other companies looking to recruit skilled staff.”