Vauxhall Jobs Secured In Ellesmere Deal
The new Vauxhall Astra is to be built at Ellesmere Port, saving thousands of jobs and creating hundreds more, the company has confirmed.
Announcing £125m of investment, the car giant guaranteed the future of the Merseyside plant and its 2,100 staff into the next decade.
The firm also said an extra 700 new jobs will be created at the site and 3,000 in the supply chain.
Vauxhall UK managing director Duncan Aldred, who first worked at the Ellesmere Port factory 20 years ago as a graduate, told Jeff Randall Live it was a "historic day" for Vauxhall.
Aldred said: "Vauxhall has been a key part of the UK economy. It's a manufacturing success."
The announcement came after staff at the site backed a change to their pay and working conditions, including a two-year wage freeze.
Mr Aldred said: "This is great news for the Ellesmere Port plant, our employees, the local community, our suppliers, the Vauxhall brand and the UK.
"We have been able to develop a responsible labour agreement that secures the plant's future."
The factory will move from working two shifts to three shifts in order to build the new Astra, while "unprecedented" levels of flexibility will be introduced, Mr Aldred said.
In a ballot by the Unite union, 94% of workers voted in favour of the deal that sealed the decision to build the next generation of Astra compact cars near Liverpool by US owners GM Motors.
The outcome was welcomed by Unite general secretary Len McCluskey, who added: "From a position of uncertainty earlier this year, there is now a potential for a future at the plant until 2020 and beyond."
The new workforce agreement comes into force in 2013 and runs through the life of the next generation Astra, into the early 2020s.
The deal with staff includes a four-year pay agreement and production on 51 weeks a year and scrapping of the traditional summer and other closures which have been a part of UK industry for decades.
Assembly of the new car is scheduled to start in 2015, with a minimum of 160,000 vehicles to be produced each year.
The future of the North West plant had been in doubt since the beginning of the year after GM, Vauxhall's parent company, admitted it was looking at restructuring its European operations and would probably close one of its three plants in the region.
Business Secretary Vince Cable described it as a "very great day" as he visited the Ellesmere factory.
Mr Cable had fought hard to keep the Vauxhall site open, travelling to the US to lobby GM earlier in the year.
Now, he says its case "made itself". He said: "They wanted an assurance that the Government was behind the industry, which we are.
"The car industry in the UK is a great success story."
Shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna also described it as "fantastic news" - for Ellesmere, the wider region and the UK's economy.
GM's Opel unit said it would also keep manufacturing cars at its site in Gliwice, Poland, leaving the future of its other factory in Bochum, Germany under threat.
The Ellesmere Port investment is the latest endorsement for the UK car industry from foreign owners.
Nissan and Jaguar Land Rover have both committed their futures to UK production and Honda has said it wants to double its production in Britain.
Last year more than £4bn was invested in the industry, making it one of very few sectors to enjoy success in tough economic times.
For the first time, Britain is now exporting more cars than it is importing, but manufacturers remain encouraged that the UK is the place to manufacture their products.
"Fundamentally, we are good at what we do," Paul Everitt, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, told Sky News.
"We have a highly skilled workforce, we have a highly flexible workforce, and one of the things that marks us out compared to the other locations with which we have to compete, is that there is a very genuine level of collaboration between industry itself and government."
At Wednesday's Prime Minister's Questions, David Cameron boasted about the motor industry's success and praised the workers who brought it about.
"It is encouraging that for the first time since 1976 we have a surplus in car manufacturing.
"That is because of the hard work people have put in at Nissan, at Honda, at Jaguar Land Rover.
"It is extremely good news."
Ellesmere Port currently builds the Astra Sports Tourer, making 140,000 models last year.
The plant was built in 1962, producing its first car, a Viva, two years later.