ENGINEERING workers are mobilising today against a business takeover that could threaten Britain’s defence industry.
Unite union and 16 cross-party MPs fear that British global engineering firm GKN, which holds key defence contracts, will be broken up and sold off if a proposed £7.4 billion hostile takeover by London-based asset-stripper Melrose plc goes ahead.
They are demanding Prime Minister Theresa May and Business Secretary Greg Clark stop the takeover in the public interest.
The government’s pensions regulator has warned that pensions are under threat. The GKN defined benefits pension scheme has 32,000 members, including 17,000 who have already retired.
Melrose, which was founded in 2003, has a history of taking over firms, stripping them down and selling the remnants for quick profits.
Founded in 1759, GKN works with Airbus and Boeing, supplying and maintaining British defence equipment including Typhoon fighter aircraft, F-35 joint strike aircraft, and Chinook and Black Hawk helicopters. It is also a major supplier to the automotive industry, including Jaguar, Land Rover and Toyota.
It operates in 30 countries with 59,000 employees, 6,000 of them in Britain at 10 sites that include Bristol, Cowes, Luton, Portsmouth, Birmingham and Telford.
The proposed takeover was investigated yesterday by the Commons business, energy and industrial strategy select committee.
Workers from GKN automotive, defence and aerospace divisions will protest at GKN Birmingham automotive headquarters at 12.30pm today.
Unite’s acting automotive national officer Carol Tallentire said GKN “is at the heart of the UK automotive industry” and “essential to the government’s industrial strategy.”
She said: “In Melrose’s hands, all that would be put at risk and ministers’ plans for the UK to be a leader in electric vehicles could be left in tatters.”
She said GKN would face debts of £1.3bn if the bid succeeded, while Melrose advisers would pocket upwards of £140 million in fees.
Unite assistant secretary Steve Turner said: “They take over businesses, they break businesses up, they compartmentalise them and then flog them off to the highest bidder in order to maximise shareholder value.
“It’s about maximising shareholder value and trousering lots of money.”
Shadow business secretary Rebecca Long Bailey said: “The government must intervene and investigate this matter urgently.”
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