Fears of huge job losses at the UK’s largest rail assembly factory do not have anything to do with the controversial decision to scale back the high-speed HS2 line, according to the Prime Minister.
Alstom is consulting on potential redundancies believed to be around 550 at its train manufacturing site in Derby, while 780 contractors are also at risk.
Unite said a further 900 jobs are under threat in the supply chain, claiming that the proposed job losses are a direct result of the delay in the construction of HS2.
Rishi Sunak said on a visit to the East Midlands on Friday: “Of course, my sympathies go to all the people affected by it.
“I know that it will be an anxious time for them and the local teams on the ground are providing support and making sure that we’ve got a response in place to help all of those people and that’s happening.
“With regard to the reasons for it, I don’t think it’s fair or accurate to characterise that decision by Alstom as a result of the decision on HS2.
“Alstom are actually providing the trains for phase one of HS2 and the issue that they have, as do other companies in that sector, is about their order books next year.
“The government has actually been in dialogue with them for several months about this issue, well before the decision on HS2 was made, and we’ve tried to find ways that we can bring forward other orders to support, for example, and so I don’t think it’s fair or accurate to characterise it as a result decision on HS2.
“But as a result of that decision, this area will receive more funding quicker on the projects that actually matter to people, whether that’s local bus services where we’ve kept the £2 bus fare cap in place, which will help people; potholes, which people would always say as their number one priority for transport spending, which we’ve announced more money today; and the new mayor for this region, Ben Bradley, will have £1.5 billion to spend on transport projects that people in this area will prioritise.
“So I think it is the right long-term decision not just for the country, but particularly for the East Midlands.”
An Alstom spokesperson said: “Alstom UK has been working with the Government for the last six months with the joint objective of securing a sustainable future for our rolling stock factory at Derby Litchurch Lane, which has no confirmed workload beyond the first quarter of 2024.
“No committed way forward has yet been found and therefore it is with deep regret that we must now begin to plan for a significant reduction in activity at Derby by entering a period of collective consultation on potential redundancies at Litchurch Lane.”
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “There is absolutely no justification for the proposed job losses.
“It is madness that there is a huge amount of work that Alstom could and should be bidding for but the Government has not got around to tendering for it.
“The Government and Alstom should both be bending over backwards to keep hold of these highly skilled workers and this strategically vital and unique site.”