As I See It

Dundee deserves more answers from Michelin

Terry MurdenFrom boom to gloom. Dundee is a city still in party mood following the opening of the V&A Museum in September that signalled a renewal of its fortunes. Not now.

While the city rejoiced with gallons of French fizz, it was another French institution that was about to deliver what is being widely described as a hammer blow.

Michelin’s decision to close its tyre factory came out of the blue. Suddenly, a Christmas that was supposed to be lit up with visitors enjoying a trip to Scotland’s renaissance city will find it mourning the loss of 850 jobs and its biggest manufacturer.

It was due to be confirmed this morning, but an announcement was brought forward as rumours spread last night. Michelin says the plant is simply making the wrong sort of tyres and that a flood of cheap imports from Asia has occurred very suddenly. That’s why a warning of cutbacks made only a few weeks ago has turned into a story of closure.

The situation has prompted the First Minister and Finance Secretary to reorganise their calendars and meet company management to find out if there is any chance of salvaging at least some of the workers’ jobs.

They will demand further explanation from a company which has received hefty state hand-outs to ensure the Dundee plant has a future. Notwithstanding changes in demand, if the company is now reneging on its promises then that money must be clawed back. If cheap Asian tyres are being dumped on Europe and are, according to the Unite union ‘sub-standard’, then the EU should be asking questions about import standards and policies.

While market shifts cannot be avoided, the company’s internal processes ought to have seen them coming. This plant is a flagship operation for a multinational company, producing more than 7 million car tyres each year for export all over the world. Investment has helped modernise operations and keep down costs. In 2006 Dundee was the first Michelin factory in the world to embrace wind energy with two wind turbine generators. Quite rightly, it seemed to be a fixture in Michelin’s plans for the years ahead. Investment has continued into new facilities.

Those who believed 2018 would be a year to remember for re-inventing the city of discovery, now have to revert to sorting out another crisis that will see the year end on an unexpected and unwelcome low.



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