Page last updated at 14:14 GMT, Tuesday, 12 December 2006

Workers feel betrayed by Peugeot

The body assembly area of the Ryton plant
Ryton workers said they had met all of the management demands

The final car rolling of the production line at the Ryton plant marks an end to more than 60 years of car making on the site near Coventry.

But Ryton workers feel they have been betrayed by Peugeot which is shifting production of the 206 car to Slovakia.

They said staff had met all the demands made by bosses over the years to improve efficiency at the plant but it has all been for nothing.

But managers said investment costs made the plant unviable.

Lee Gray, a paint sprayer at the plant and union convenor, said workers had been forced to meet management demands for the last decade.

We had changed shifts to adapt to exactly what the management needed and they've still kicked us in the teeth
Gary Howard

"Since the early 90s we started to work under a cloud, under threats of closure," he said.

"If you don't do this shift you will close; if you did this shift you won't close; we must do this change to stay competitive with the other plants within the rest of Europe."

Nick Turner, a worker at the plant for 18 years, said workers felt they had earned their jobs by meeting the demands.

"Peugeot wanted us to run a bit better, and we did, we proved to the French we could do it.

"By the end we were working on 40 cars an hour, that's a lot of cars and the quality was spot on.

"That's why with the French we thought we'd have a job for life because we proved to the French that we could do the job."

'Bent over backwards'

Workers were hurt when the closure of the plant was announced in April this year, he said.

"Up until then everyone had said it would go down to one shift until 2010, because that's the date the company has said they would be staying open until.

"But when news came out that we were closing, that hurt people because we had bent over backwards to help them out."

Gary Howard, a Ryton worker since 1987, said it was a feeling of betrayal.

"We had taken pay cuts, we had done unpaid overtime, involuntary overtime, we had changed shifts to adapt to exactly what the management needed and it's added up to nothing - they've still kicked us in the teeth, I think they have anyway."

Peugeot 206
The Peugeot 206 model was produced at the Ryton plant

But John Goodman, director of corporate communications for the company said: "It's been a tough decision to close the Peugeot plant, the workforce has put in tremendous efforts over the years, which have seen increases in productivity and efficiency.

"To maintain production at Ryton we needed to invest 170m to bring in a new car.

"Faced with that fact Ryton would remain intrinsically more expensive, there was no alternative but to announce the closure of Ryton."

Prof Tom Donnelly, from Coventry Business School, added: "I would say the closure has been almost inevitable for five years - it's never been a plant that Peugeot has seen with a fantastic long-term future.

"Peugeot's attitude was as long as they made money out of it and as long as it filled a void in the production schedule, then fine.

"The minute that began to dry up then that attitude changed."

The plant is set to close in January next year, nearly 67 years after it opened.

Motor city loses last major plant
18 Apr 06 |  Coventry/Warwickshire
2,300 jobs go in Peugeot closure
18 Apr 06 |  Coventry/Warwickshire

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