Shadow defence secretary: Here is how Rugby's GE site could be saved from closure

From left to right: Simon Pettitt, Ish Mistry, Steve Kerr, Debbie Bannigan, Nia Griffith MP and John McAuslan.
From left to right: Simon Pettitt, Ish Mistry, Steve Kerr, Debbie Bannigan, Nia Griffith MP and John McAuslan.

Rugby’s MP Mark Pawsey is not doing enough to protect 197 at-risk jobs at General Electric in Rugby, said the shadow defence secretary after visiting the town last week.

On Thursday, January 17, shadow defence secretary Nia Griffith joined Rugby’s Labour parliamentary candidate Dr Debbie Bannigan as they visited the Technology Drive GE factory

The pair toured the factory, where and spoke with Unite union representatives about GE’s proposal to move production at the site to Nancy, in France.

Last year GE announced plans to cease manufacturing at the Technology Drive site as part of a wider strategy to restructure itself amid what it said are difficult market conditions.

And in November last year GE said employees had been informed and proposals to close the site had entered a consultation (which is ongoing) - with the potential outcome being that production at the Rugby site is moved to Nancy in France.

It would be 'madness' to close the Rugby site

Speaking during her visit to Rugby, Labour’s Nia Griffith told the Advertiser: “It would be madness, not just from the point of view of the economy of Rugby, but also for our sovereign capabilities as the UK, to lose this unique facility.”

She called on the Government to do more to protect jobs at the site, which provides much of the Royal Navy’s propulsion systems.

Contracts for the construction of new ships could be called forward to secure the jobs in Rugby, she added.

She said: “It would be catastrophic for us as the UK to lose this absolutely unique ship engine building capacity.

“It’s absolutely clear that both Mark Pawsey and the Government have washed their hands of this issue, and they have made it as if it’s up to market forces out there - no, the decision making is with our own Government.

“It is absolutely perfectly possible for them to decide to bring forward orders, to safeguard orders and make it clear to GE that this is a sovereign capability that we value and we want it kept in the UK, and that we actually want things built here.

“I think they (the Conservatives) have a philosophy which makes them reluctant to intervene and this has happened time and time again.

“Whereas you look at other governments across the world who absolutely bend over backwards to look after their own industries, to encourage investment in their countries, to make sure they don’t lose unique sovereign capabilities like this.”

Rugby's Labour candidate: GE is 'part of our heritage and it should be part of our future'

Dr Bannigan said: “Everywhere I go people tell me stories about their history, their family’s history, their association with GE and all the identities it’s had over the years.

“There are 197 high-quality jobs there that we desperately need in this town, but it’s also part of our heritage and it should be a proud part of our future.

“We should be looking to generate more inward investment to grow from the fantastic base of skills that we’ve got, to have a bigger and better manufacturing capacity here.

“What we see is more and more low-quality, low-pay jobs turning up and these high-quality jobs disappearing.

“I am absolutely disgusted that we are not doing more, that our MP [Mark Pawsey] is not doing more to speak up for the town. He says he is doing things behind the scenes, if he is they are ineffective.

“Manufacturing is in our bloodstream, it’s part of our heritage, but it also should be a vibrant part of our future.”

Steve Kerr, Unite representative and member of the GE European Works Council said: “We greatly appreciate the work that Debbie Bannigan has done to raise awareness of the importance of the work that is carried out here in Rugby.

“It’s crucial to the sovereign capability and freedom of action that is required by the Royal Navy. The shadow cabinet are showing more concern on this matter than the Cabinet itself.”

Rugby MP Mark Pawsey said he has been 'heavily involved in fighting' for GE staff

Last year GE announced plans to cease manufacturing at the Technology Drive site as part of a wider strategy to restructure itself amid what it said are difficult market conditions.

GE previously told the Advertiser that the plans were not concrete.

And in November last year GE said employees had been informed and proposals to close the site had entered a consultation set to last at least 90 days - with the potential outcome being that production at the Rugby site is moved to Nancy in France.

Rugby MP Mark Pawsey previously said: “I have been heavily involved in fighting GE’s corner on behalf of its employees for over a year and have met with the management team in Rugby, and representatives of the work force, on many occasions both locally and in Westminster.

"In recent months I have held meetings with Government ministers and helped facilitate meetings between those ministers and representatives of the company. In the coming weeks I will be meeting with the Secretary of State for Defence to once again press the case for GE and fight for the workforce.”