Vauxhall plans for re-opening of Ellesmere Port plant could be delayed
The reopening of Vauxhall’s Ellesmere Port plant could yet be delayed beyond September, after the UK boss of parent firm PSA stressed that consumer demand for new vehicles remains the overriding factor in the post-lockdown recovery.
The factory was closed in late March as the UK’s coronavirus lockdown took hold, but while PSA’s van production facility in Luton reopened in May, Ellesmere – which makes the Vauxhall Astra – isn’t currently expected to start manufacturing again until the autumn. The last potential date named by PSA itself was 1 September.
However, the company, which covers not only Vauxhall but also Peugeot, Citroen and DS – has also stated that its manufacturing facilities across Europe will only start to reopen if customer confidence and demand are strong enough.
Speaking at the Financial Times’ Future of the Car summit, PSA UK boss Alison Jones declined to recommit to the September date and repeated that the firm will only make cars when there are buyers ready to them. When asked when Ellesmere Port could reopen, Jones said, “We haven’t given a firm date. What we have been is very clear that we need to see the demand. That’s true across all of our factories cross Europe. We continue to work with unions and employees, but we’ve been clear: we need to see demand to be able to open every one of our factories.”
During the lockdown, Vauxhall says it has been developing protocols and health protection measures that will enable its workforce to return to the site when it is deemed appropriate to reopen.
The measures have been approved by management and “fully audited”, the company claims. Vauxhall has also invited Unite – the trade union body that represents the plant’s employees – to conduct a final review of the protocols before manufacturing can begin again.
More than 100 new safety measures are to be brought in by the company, covering industrial, administrative, research and development and also commercial sectors of the factory. Staff will have their temperature checked, and everyone will be required to be vigilant of any symptoms associated with Covid-19.
Face masks will be provided daily, with staff being instructed to maintain a safe distance from one another in line with the government advice to stay two metres apart from non-household members. To this end, break areas will have markings on the floor to help employees space themselves out.
Meanwhile, all doors (with the exception of fire doors) will be left open to limit contact with handles, with tools and work surfaces regularly cleaned to limit the risk of infection by shared contact of objects and materials. Where necessary, parts that change hands within the company without being cleaned will have to pass a set waiting time without being touched.
Vauxhall said any resumption will take into account the operating capacity permitted by the authorities as and when restrictions are lifted.
Do you think the plant will be up and running soon? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below…
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