On December13th Jim Cunningham MP met with two representatives from Unite, who were representing the staff of London Taxi International.
The two representatives were Peter Coulson, West Midlands Regional Officer, and Paul Williams who himself worked at the Coventry factory.
The three then went to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to meet with the Business Minister Michael Fallon and a number of officials from the Department.
The meeting began with Peter Coulson explaining that they are campaigning for
a) The black cab to remain in production and in use on London streets as it is a British icon
b) That the production of the cabs remains located in the UK He asked the Minister to support the campaign in calling for these two points.
The Minister strongly agreed with this and said that he will do everything he can to keep the cabs and keep their production in the UK.
The next point regarded the identity of the potential bidders. Peter is in frequent contact with the Administrators, Price Waterhouse Coopers.
There were originally 73 interested parties in Stage 1 but this is now down to only 12.
This is expected to come down to low single-figures by next week.
Unite are keen to find out from the final bidders if they will commit to ensuring points a) and b) – that the cabs will continue to be produced and that it will be within the UK.
PWC cannot give an indication of who the bidders are at this stage and so Unite are hoping that PWC will act as a conduit and try to gauge if the bidders can make these commitments – particularly when there are only 3-4 bidders remaining.
Peter Coulson asked the Minister if in the Department’s discussions with PWC if they could reinforce how helpful it would be to have an idea of the bidders’ intentions as it will (hopefully) allay concerns that production may leave the UK.
The Minister stressed that he cannot instruct PWC but that he will see what he can do in finding a way to ascertain the bidders’ intentions – he was also keen to find out as soon as possible if these commitments will be held.
They discussed a number of other related issues, including the role of the Chinese-based firm Geely who is a major shareholder, the steering box fault issue and the job-losses at the site.
Unite stressed that they do not have a problem with any company who is bidding and are happy to work with any company as long as they can be assured that the black cabs will continue to be produced and that this will take place in the UK.
The final main point that was discussed was the impact of the Mayor of London’s Clean Air Policy.
Paul Williams raised the issue that as current taxi cabs come off the roads as they fail to meet the new standards, they find that there aren’t enough newly-manufactured cabs with which to replace them. This is putting London cab drivers out of work, despite this being their busiest time of year, yet there is the capability to produce new cabs ready to go ahead as soon as the bid is completed. There had been the possibility that the Mayor of London would look into relaxing the Clean Air Policy to allow for this delay in the production of black cabs and prevent cars being taken off the streets while the deal is being negotiated, but this is looking uncertain.
The Minister promised to look into the matter to see if there is any way to confirm if this will be possible.
In all, the Minister was highly supportive and promised to do all he can to support the campaign.
Jim Cunningham MP said: “I was pleased with the outcome of the meeting. We have been assured that the Minister fully supports our calls for the black cabs to remain in production and that this work should continue in the UK.
He has promised to help us in ascertaining as soon as possible whether the final bidders can make this commitment. I will be continuing discussions with him and all other relevant parties to determine what further steps might be taken to limit the negative impact on jobs in Coventry and among London taxi drivers.”