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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 April 2006, 21:30 GMT 22:30 UK
Words of advice for Peugeot workers
By John Hand
BBC News

The Peugeot site at Ryton, Warwickshire
Peugeot workers must take time to consider their next move

Only those who have been in a similar position can really understand what Peugeot workers are going through this week.

The uncertain future facing the men and women at the Ryton plant echoes the dark days experienced by counterparts at Vauxhall in Luton in 2000 and Rover in Longbridge last year.

Some of those who lost their livelihoods at those plants have successfully rebuilt their careers and two of them offer their advice on how the Peugeot workers should react.

EX-VAUXHALL WORKER GRAHAM MARSHALL

Ex-Vauxhall worker Graham Marshall
There are opportunities out there, Graham Marshall says
Graham Marshall, 57, worked at the Vauxhall Motors plant in Luton for 38 years and was a quality assurance senior supervisor when parent company General Motors announced its closure. He now works as an IT teacher at an adult education college.

I only applied for one job when I left school - to work in the same place as half the lads in my class. My dad had worked at Vauxhall, my brother worked there - I even went on to meet my wife Christine there.

I went there as an apprentice and, after my apprenticeship, I worked in the quality department. Eventually I ended up running the supply quality assurance headquarters.

As soon as you joined Vauxhall, you were part of the family - the recreation club depended on the people who worked there. Everyone drove a Vauxhall - in fact my car is still a Vauxhall.

The evening before it all blew up, I was on the phone to counterparts in Germany, arranging a meeting to decide how we were going to share the workload that was coming up. We were still productive and we can understand the anger we are hearing about from Peugeot workers who say the same is true there now.

What they have to realise is that it is absolutely nothing to do with them. They could be doing the most fantastic job in the world and this would still have happened once the bean counters did their sums and made up their mind. It's purely down to money.

The key thing for Peugeot workers is they have to accept the situation as it is. Take pride in what you've done there and then take everything you can away from it when you leave the place for good.

The former Vauxhall plant at Luton
Vauxhall once employed 35,000 workers in Luton

At Vauxhall, the East of England Development Agency came in and did a lot of things to help us. There was funding for retraining and for courses at the University of Luton. If something similar happens at Peugeot, it is important the workers take those chances. If you want to become an electrician or a plumber, have a go. You're never too old.

But what you may not realise is that you already have skills which will be useful elsewhere. Now when I'm teaching IT in the classroom, I'm doing a lot of the same things I did when working at Vauxhall.

For those who have to wait to find work, it's important they talk to people. They will have spent their working life surrounded by people and when you find yourself at home, that just stops.

For me, I latched on to the university and did a lot of courses. Along the way, you regain your self-belief, you regain your dignity and you regain your self-worth and, slowly, you gain a new circle of contacts.

People who have had only one career don't realise what it's like in the outside world. But there's a big world out there and there are opportunities, however hard it is to believe at that time. Just refuse to believe there's anything you can't do.

EX-ROVER WORKER MAURICE MINOR

The Longbridge plant in Birmingham
Almost 6,000 jobs were lost at Longbridge
Maurice Minor, 58, spent 32 years at Longbridge before the company went bust last year. He has found new employment in the motor industry, commuting daily to Honda in Swindon.

I joined Rover on 8 January 1973 and after just 10 days another worker slapped me on the back and said 'It's a shame you've just started, this place is going bust next week'.

That threat hung over us for so long but I can honestly say there were no unhappy times in all the time I spent there. There were plenty of opportunities to do different things in there and that's exactly what I did.

It really provided a stability for you and your family and I'm sure if things had stayed the same, I'd still be there now.

When the news came it happened remarkably quickly. The first sniff of it was a story in the Telegraph at the weekend - by that Friday we were in administration.

I'd say to the Peugeot workers that they cannot rely on anybody else but themselves to get the next job for them. I'm sure there will be training available but in reality, that's a good option only for younger people. Older workers really haven't got time to go and learn a new skill for two years.

You have to keep your mind open and not look back at what you did in your last job. I have taken a 25% pay cut, dropped down a couple of levels and have to drive 60 miles each way to work in Swindon every day. It's hard on the family at times but it is good to work and important not to look back. I certainly don't look back on my time at Rover with any anger.

If you go into it thinking you have to have the same job again, you'll never find yourself back in work.



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