Mixed message on jobs for sacked Peugeot workers

2006

The 2,300 British workers being made redundant from car maker Peugeot Citroen are getting conflicting signals on what the future will hold for them in terms of employment.

This week the car giant announced it was to close its Ryton plant in Coventry by mid-2007.

Local councillors and politicians have expressed confidence that economic conditions in the area, and the development of a nearby airport, will mean most of the workers will have a good chance of securing new employment.

But the Work Foundation has warned that the workers are likely to find it just as difficult as MG Rover workers, who lost their jobs after the closure of their Longbridge plant, to find "high quality" jobs.

And managers have been advised not to stop communicating with their workers if they wish to keep morale and productivity up to the end.

Professor Graham Jones, director of performance development consultancy Lane4, said communication with the entire workforce remained the key, even though the decision to close had now been made.

"There is nothing worse than rumours and Chinese whispers. Companies must recognise that while job losses are often inevitable, there are still going to be people left who will need both empathy and support," he said.

According to the Work Foundation, life after Peugeot Citroen could be even tougher for the Coventry-based workforce than it was for the MG Rover workers.

"Unlike the Longbridge workers the Peugeot Citroen workforce may find it harder to get support from government services," said the foundation's Kathy Armstrong.

"There is no task force to offer geared up support such as helplines, extra Job Centre plus staff, and retraining.

"Like most redundant workers these workers will be reliant on their own networks and existing back-to-work services. I found that many re-employed Rover workers suffered a pay penalty of around £3,500 per annum," she added.

A BBC study of the Longbridge workforce found there were likely to be long-lasting negative effects on the health and wellbeing of those workers who were left "underemployed" and in bad jobs.

"There may be a small minority of workers who can't find work at all and withdraw from the labour force permanently, leading to a deterioration in their health and wellbeing," said Armstrong.

"Many of the MG Rover workers found jobs in the manufacturing sector. There are bound to be a few that ended up at Peugeot Citroen. Now they are about to suffer the double jeopardy of back-to-back redundancies," she added.

She warned government ministers not to be complacent over their future.

"The workers of Peugeot Citroen need more support not less. Many will need substantive investment in their retraining. The new jobs they may have to accept are likely to be lower paying and of lower status, that is 'bad jobs'. As our study of the Longbridge workers found, bad jobs can damage people's health and well-being," she explained.

Land4's Jones warned that it was organisations focused on reducing any uncertainty that existed.

"It is at times of pressure such as this real leadership skills are required and that the real leaders really come to the fore. Those who hide in the boardroom or behind official company statements will in time fall by the wayside," he said.

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