Page last updated at 15:09 GMT, Thursday, 28 May 2009 16:09 UK

Town's fears over Vauxhall future

Rebecca Kelly
BBC News, Ellesmere Port

Southwood family
Buyout talks have broken down causing concern for workers

"If Vauxhall were to close Ellesmere Port would be a ghost town and go the way of the old mining communities.

"There is a real fear our jobs will go and we are powerless," said Peter Southwood, who has worked at the Ellesmere Port car plant for 13 years.

For the 2,200 people employed at Vauxhall in the town, concern has been growing after a breakdown in talks in Germany over which company will buy the car manufacturer's parent company, General Motors (GM) Europe.

Two of the bidders plan to cut thousands of jobs in Europe, threatening Vauxhall's UK workforce at the Cheshire site and in Luton.

Ellesmere Port may be in a better position than Luton, as it is a modern facility that is gearing up to produce a new version of the Astra for pan-European sale in the autumn.

But that does little to calm the fears of local people.

Mr Southwood, 35, father to Charlie, 10 and Keira, five, has lived in Ellesmere Port all his life, after his grandfather moved to the area from Liverpool to take a job at Vauxhall.

"Like a lot of the lads at Vauxhall, it's in the family - my dad worked there too.

People are scared that our jobs will go and we will struggle to provide for our families
Peter Southwood

"The town was built around the plant and if it closes and we all lose our jobs then the town and the local economy will suffer enormously."

It is Whit week so as is tradition, the plant is closed for seven days, but the time off is filled with money worries and anxiety over job security.

Mr Southwood, who is the sole earner for his family while his wife, Sarah, looks after their children, added: "It's difficult because the children are on half-term so they want to go out and do things but we have to think can we afford it, but how to you explain that to a kid?

Terry Miles
Workers want answers said Union representative Terry Miles

"People are scared that our jobs will go and we will struggle to provide for our families.

"Many are mortgaged to the hilt so the effect would be horrendous."

Staff have already had a taste of financial hardship after hours were cut from 38 a week to 30 in February.

Terry Miles, 50, a senior union representative for the Unite union, said the anxiety was being felt by the older workers.

"I've been at the plant for 32 years and this is the worst I've seen things and I have endured a 13-week strike.

"For the over 50-year-olds we are worried, what will happen to our pensions?

"We are the last British carmarker and we have no idea where we stand."

Lesley and Doreen Randle
The Ellesmere Plant currently employs 2,200 workers

Meanwhile people in the town have been reflecting on Vauxhall's future.

Patrick Grant, 75, said: "We worry about what will happen. There is no other similar manufacturer in the area, so where would people find work. The mood is low."

Ellesmere Port currently has the highest unemployment in Cheshire, and the local Asda is understood to have almost 2,000 people on its waiting list for jobs.

Lesley Randle, 86, originally worked for Vauxhall in Luton but relocated to help set up the Ellesmere Port plant in 1962.

He told BBC News: "Job cuts, closures, I've seen it before, it's become a way of life, but this is very emotional for the people."

His wife Doreen added: "We see a lot of ex-workers around and it's all they talk about, its very negative for people here but fingers crossed."



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