JCB staff agree to work fewer hours to save jobs


More than 2,000 workers at the digger maker JCB have voted to work fewer hours to reduce the number of redundancies demanded by the company as it struggles to cope with falling global demand for mining and construction equipment, reports The Guardian.

The GMB union said more than 100 jobs were saved after workers at JCB’s four major factories agreed to reduce their weekly hours from 39 to 34 with immediate effect.

The deal, which will last three months, will cut JCB’s wage bill after a collapse in global sales triggered by the slowing Chinese economy.

Demand for JCB equipment has fallen fastest in China, Brazil and Russia. Sales in Russia tumbled by 70 per cent in the first six months of the year, while Brazil fell by 36 per cent and China by 47 per cent. Parts of Europe were also struggling, with France down by 26 per cent, it said.

Even the strong growth in the UK and North America has softened due to a fall in market confidence that has pushed oil prices and commodity prices to post-crash lows.

In September, JCB said the loss of business meant it needed to shed 400 shop-floor posts. Discussions with the union whittled this number down to 290.

GMB said the company had agreed to scrap proposals for compulsory redundancies, and the number of posts likely to go was 135 or fewer through early retirements and voluntary redundancies.

A flexible working pattern will operate for the next three months at JCB world headquarters in Rocester, Staffordshire, the heavy products factory in Uttoxeter, the cab systems in Rugeley and and JCB transmissions in Wrexham.

“The number of hours worked at each site will now vary depending on production volumes but will be 34 hours or above,” the union said. “Employees will have the choice of either being paid for just the reduced hours worked or being paid for the full 39 hour week and then working back the ‘banked’ hours next year.”

Caterpillar, JCB’s US rival, warned in September that falling sales meant its global workforce would need to shrink by between 4,000 and 5,000 by the end of 2016 and job cuts could reach 10,000 by the end of 2018.

Gordon Richardson, GMB works convenor at JCB, said: “GMB members are to be congratulated on the result of the ballot. It’s a magnanimous act which is in the spirit of the approaching festive season and means that over 100 people who were under threat of compulsory redundancy will now have a much happier Christmas.”

JCB’s chief executive, Graeme Macdonald, said: “Our shop-floor colleagues are to be applauded for their actions. JCB and the GMB were determined to do everything possible to avoid compulsory redundancies through a combination of voluntary redundancies, early retirements and flexible working.”

JCB is majority owned by the Tory peer Lord Bamford who has campaigned against the UK remaining in the EU. He said it would not harm trade to leave the single market.