GKN job losses prompt renewed call for industrial strategy

GKN job losses prompt renewed call for industrial strategy

18 November 2016

The ‘wholescale betrayal’ of the Yeovil GKN workforce, with 221 jobs under threat with the announcement of the plant’s closure, strongly reinforces the need for a coherent UK-wide industrial strategy, Unite, the country’s largest union, said today (Friday 18 November). 

Last night’s (Thursday) announcement by GKN that the site in the Somerset town would close at the end of 2017 was, the union said, ‘the latest chapter in a catalogue of betrayal’.  

The GKN workers make airframes for Italian-owned Leonardo Helicopters - formerly AgustaWestland which is on the same site – and GKN said that Leonardo has decided to take all future AW159 Wild Cat work ‘in house’.

Unite regional officer Heathcliffe Pettifer said: “This announcement is the latest chapter in the wholescale betrayal of these workers. A year ago, Unite negotiated about 30 redundancies at GKN – and at the time, the management pledged this was to make the business more viable for the future.

“As a union, we don't believe that the business case for closure has been made and we have never received satisfactory answers from the top GKN management on that score.

“In the weeks ahead, we will explore options to keep the plant going as a viable business.

“This is cruel news for the highly skilled and loyal workers at GKN Yeovil and their families in the run up to Christmas. It is very bad for the Somerset economy in particular and for UK manufacturing more generally.

'It reinforces the urgent need for ministers to formulate a coherent and robust industrial strategy to safeguard UK manufacturing, especially as the complex negotiations on Brexit loom.

“Unite has repeatedly called for such a strategy and next week’s autumn statement by chancellor Philip Hammond is an excellent opportunity to put flesh-on-the-bones of this strategy.

'We will be giving our members maximum support at this difficult time and will be talking to GKN about redeployment of this skilled workforce within this multinational business and negotiating the best possible terms for those affected by redundancy.”

In the summer, Leonardo lost out to Boeing in its bid to gain the majority of the work for the latest generation of Apache attack helicopters for the British army.


Notes to editors:

For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Email:

  • Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.