Aston Martin has proposed a workforce reduction at its St Athan site of around 200 employees as part of wider restructuring plans that were announced last year. A company spokesperson told PH that the changes at the Welsh production facility, which has only been fully operational for 15 months, didn’t deviate from Aston’s stated intention to reduce its overall workforce by around 500 people. But that hasn’t softened the blow for Unite Wales, which issued a response in defense of a site that barely more than a year ago was undergoing a rapid recruitment process to reach its current headcount of 750 employees.
“Our members working at Aston Martin will be very concerned regarding their long-term futures tonight,” said Peter Hughes, Unite Wales’ regional secretary. “The potential loss of over 200 jobs represents a huge chunk of the total workforce. We are calling upon Aston Martin to step back from these proposals and work with Unite and Welsh Government to find an alternative path forward.”
In a statement Aston Martin insisted that the redundancies will only come “in order to secure the future of its Gaydon and St Athan manufacturing facilities”. The British firm, now headed by executive chairman Lawrence Stroll and CEO Tobias Moers, is restructuring to “execute on actions to improve the cost efficiency of the business, in alignment with its transformation plan”, in a process apparently titled ‘Project Horizon’. Without these changes, the manufacturer warns that it might not be able to “operate as a self-sustaining business” in the future.
Certainly Aston has faced a challenging 2020, with customer sales falling to 4,150 for last year, a 32 per cent reduction on its 2019 performance. Wholesale volumes also decreased by 42 per cent, from 5,862 units in 2019 to 3,394 in 2020. It took an investment of £182m by a consortium led by Stroll to resuscitate the brand (and another injection of cash from a consortium featuring Toto Wolff), before additional measures – including the delaying of Lagonda EV plans – were announced in order to cut costs and focus on the most profitable parts of the business.
That will obviously be cold comfort to the workers set to lose their jobs at St Athan, 95 of whom will be direct Aston Martin employees and over 100 agency staff. Another Unite Wales spokesperson told PH that while the reduction might indeed be part of existing plans, the extent of the brunt taken by St Athan was never made clear. Additionally, many of the employees will be fresh recruits “that had only just moved over from the recently closed Ford Bridgend plant”.
The union also points to the earlier Welsh Government’s investment in Aston Martin’s St Athan site, saying that it expects the brand “to act in a way that is both ethical and in the spirit of social partnership that we advocate in Wales”. Aston's recent long-term commitment to its production facilities in the UK - dismissing concerns that some manufacturing might be moved to Germany - is a timely response to this concern, but news that its forthcoming electrified DBX will be built in Wales has plainly not come soon enough to help the workers affected.
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