By Jack Beswick, Coventry Socialist Alternative
Arlington Automotive, with sites in Coventry and Birmingham, is withholding over £1,000,000 in redundancy payments from 52 disabled workers. Arlington Automotive bought the sites from Remploy in 2013 (a government scheme set up in 1944 to provide jobs for people with a disability).
When the takeover happened, existing staff kept their old contracts which gave them enhanced redundancy payments. When the firm began making redundancies earlier this year, workers in the Birmingham factory signed redundancy deals. However, when the Covid-19 lockdown came into effect Arlington went into administration.
Disgraceful treatment of workers
Administrators Duff & Phelps claim that there is now not enough money to honour those deals, and that workers will only get statutory redundancy. This means workers stand to lose an incredible amount of money, with one who was set to receive £74,000 now only due to receive £14,000 from the government. This is a double blow to the workforce - losing their jobs and discovering that they won’t get the redundancy payments they should be. Not only this, but workers in Coventry (who had not agreed redundancy deals before lockdown) weren’t even told about the company going into administration and instead found out by seeing it on the news.
Workers were then subjected to a two minute phone call whereby they were informed of their redundancies, despite some workers being hearing impared, non-verbal or unable to understand what was being explained. GMB, the union representing the workers, even state that some workers turned up for their next shift without any communication about redundancy at all.
A statement from administrators Duff & Phelps claims that “The financial issues faced by the Group have been compounded by coronavirus. New car registrations have fallen dramatically and the complexity of supply chains in the sector have led to a sudden halt to manufacturing.”. This is despite claims that Arlington’s Birmingham site made £7m in profit last year.
No to job losses!
Socialist Alternative believes that no workers should lose their job - workers should not be made to pay for the economic crisis. We support the demands of the GMB and the workforce that Arlington honours its employees with the redundancy payments that are owed.
However, the starting point needs to be a campaign in defence of the jobs themselves. The situation at Arlington is going to become more common as more companies make redundancies, and the unions need to begin from the starting point of saying no to all job losses! We do not accept that job losses are inevitable.
The GMB should look at using every means possible to defend jobs and worker’s rights, such as a mass grassroots public campaign to win support from the local community, alongside the use of any legal procedures - with the aim of giving workers the confidence that they can fight back.
Further to this, the company should be forced to open the books to the union and workers, let us see where the money has gone! If companies threaten job losses the question of bringing them into public ownership needs to be raised as a way to guarantee the livelihoods of the workforce.
Capitalism is proving itself to be a system completely incapable of providing jobs, decent pay and a decent standard of living. The situation at Arlington shows the disregard that the system has with the real ‘wealth creators’. It is time to fight for a socialist alternative to this wasteful, uncaring and brutal system.
Solidarity with staff at Arlington Automotive!