Some jobs at Rugby GE site look set to be saved after MoD brings forward equipment order

The Technology Drive site.
The Technology Drive site.

Some jobs at Rugby's Technology Drive General Electric site will be saved following after the Ministry of Defence brought forward orders for 'strategically sensitive' equipment.

The GE site at Technology Drive employs 250 people and produces power conversion equipment for a range of customers, including the Royal Navy.

And in 2017, as part of a wider strategy to restructure itself amid what it said are difficult market conditions, GE announced a proposal to close the site and move production to Nancy in France.

The proposal sparked a long-running campaign involving Unite the Union and Rugby Labour's parliamentary candidate Debbie Bannigan, with Rugby MP Mark Pawsey also saying that he would fight to save the jobs.

This morning, May 20, the Advertiser understands that GE will call a meeting to inform its Rugby staff that some of their jobs will be saved because the Ministry of Defence has brought forward orders for 'strategically sensitive' equipment.

This follows eight months of campaigning by Unite the Union to draw the government’s attention to the need to secure the future of the GE site in Rugby.

Steve Kerr, Unite’s senior rep at GE said: "Although we are pleased that work will continue here, keeping the factory open, the proposal still results in a number of high quality engineering jobs being lost to the town.

"We’ll be pushing for a strategic plan to secure the future of the factory and grow our capability.

"We are delighted that the Government has finally seen sense and stepped in to ensure that the strategically important work that we do in Rugby will continue.

"We’re grateful for the support we’ve received from Labour MPs, including Jeremy Corbyn who visited GE back in November 2018 with the Labour Candidate Debbie Bannigan, and vowed to do all he could to keep our factory open."

The news comes after the Defence Select Committee commenced an enquiry into GE's proposals to cease manufacturing in Rugby, taking evidence from Trade Union representatives.

Mr Kerr added: "The Defence Select Committee is questioning GE’s senior management and ministers about their intentions tomorrow and we’ll be listening carefully to ensure that this development doesn’t let them off the hook for the future. Unite will continue to campaign to protect jobs at the factory."

Debbie Bannigan, Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Rugby who has supported Unite’s campaign from the beginning said: "It would have been madness to allow the factory to close.

"The work that happens here is essential for our defence capability and we simply can’t stand by and see it moved overseas on the whim of a multinational business.

"Unite has run a brilliant campaign and it’s a testament to their diligence that this work will continue here.

"Without them, and the support they’ve received from Labour’s front and back bench MPs, the Government would have allowed GE to do what they liked with the works, which would have been a disaster for our national defence capability."

A spokesperson for General Electric said: "Today, GE Power shared with employees the outcome of its local consultation process regarding the Power Conversion Leicester Road [referring to the Technology Drive site] site in Rugby, which will now remain open but with reduced manufacturing and related activities.

"We remain committed to supporting all those impacted to help identify other career opportunities, whether externally or within another GE business."