Michelin Dundee workers are finding alternative employment faster than anticipated – but hundreds of people still face being made redundant when tyre production ends in June next year.
Since the closure announcement in November, Michelin has invested millions of pounds into training its 845-strong workforce to maximise their chances of finding other opportunities.
So far more than 300 staff have left the company to “positive destinations”.
Workers who leave to take other jobs still receive their full redundancy package, which is based on 2020 wage levels.
Meanwhile tyre production is being run down in line with the staff available while plans are being developed to turn the site into an innovation centre.
The closure plan was developed with Michelin and Unite the union, which was supported by all the workers.
Michelin factory manager John Reid describes the run down of tyre production in Dundee as the most important 18 months of his career.
“Our mission statement for the closure of the factory is everyone finds a solution,” he said.
“What would be really efficient from a company’s point of view is that every quarter we are going to have a quarter of the workforce out of the door.
“The issue with that is that people would be forced out before they found a job or we’ll be holding on to them too long.
“Michelin has supported us by saying we will load you depending on what resource you have on site.”
Initially Mr Reid estimated 25 employees would leave each month with, potentially, around 300 staff still on site next June.
10 months into the process, around 330 staff have left, which is three months ahead of projections.
“We are not being complacent – we need to find more opportunities and go faster,” said Mr Reid.
“We haven’t re-forecast deliberately because you can have good months and bad months.
“There’s no getting away from the fact that this is a bad situation but we are trying to make it as positive as possible.”
The site has a dedicated career’s centre, where jobs are posted and people can receive one-to-one sessions on writing CVs and be coached for interviews.
Several employment fairs have been held at Michelin and a member of staff has been employed solely to find job opportunities.
Each worker has a personal training budget at an average of £3,000 and Michelin will pay them for three weeks while they complete the courses.
They have also made a relocation package of £15,000 available to staff who find opportunities outwith the Dundee area.
Mr Reid said Michelin was “absolutely devastated” to have to close the Dundee factory.
He added: “The situation we are in is absolutely nothing to do with the performance of people on the site.
“We’ve worked with the company to help understand what the challenges are and what we need to do to get the best outcome.
“From day one they have wanted to know what they can do to make it better. Through that process, we came up with a package of measures.
“There is no higher goal than supporting people you have worked with for many years to find a positive outcome.”
The support to train workers and help to find jobs will last a year after tyre production ends.
Where Michelin workers have gone
At the end of last month 331 members of staff out of the firm’s workforce of 845 had left to “positive destinations”.
Of these around a fifth had chosen to retire while 30% have found other manufacturing roles, 13% have gone to service jobs, 10% to engineering opportunities and 10% into health jobs.
Analysis by Michelin found that around 60% of the people who have taken jobs elsewhere are earning the same or more in their new job.
So far around 40 people have relocated for work more than 50 miles outside Dundee.
Employees search for jobs
Workers at Dundee Michelin have spoken of their shock at finding out the factory was to close in November as they try to find alternative work.
Martin Doran said he thought there may have been redundancies coming but never imagined the factory closing.
“When word was out before the official announcement, I thought it was fake news until we saw it on the news,” he said.
Jim Grant, business unit leader, said some of his colleagues had applied for more than 30 jobs without being successful.
He said he had started sending out CVs to employers two months ago and has had a couple of phone interviews so far.
“We had the support from the union to understand that whatever was going to happen was going to be done in a way to get the best possible outcome,” he said.
“The training sessions have been really valuable to make sure your CV is relevant for jobs you’re applying for and to give you a lot of preparation when you do get a foot in the door.
“The reality is I’m probably going to have to commute if I stay in manufacturing.”
RS tech Scott Baxter was in the middle of doing a university degree that was funded by Michelin.
“The course was due to finish in 2021 but I approached the uni to see if I could accelerate that and Michelin said they would support that.
“We’ve had visits from the highest level within Michelin who have visited Dundee and been really emotional about the plant closing.”
Union support plans for innovation centre
Marc Jackson, senior shop steward for Unite the Union, which represents 98% of Michelin manufacturing staff, said workers were “ramping up” their skills as the site ran down.
He said: “The union and the management side work together very strongly.
“Everyone is getting a good financial package, but that money is a bridge, it’s not a pot of gold.
“We are training people to get different jobs.
“We are ramping down as a factory but we are ramping up to get people to change their future and giving them the best tools possible to adapt.
“There are a lot of positives but it is very difficult. It’s going to get more difficult if nearer the time and people can’t get a job.”
Mr Jackson said he was hopeful of the future of the Michelin site with the Michelin Scotland Innovation Parc project.
“I’ll be proud when we have the jobs on site and I can look people in the face and say we’ve done everything possible to get you a job and make your life better,” he added.
“We are pleased that John is heading up MSIP and we trust him and we know he’s going to do the best not just for our members but for the people of Dundee.”