Tyre giant Michelin is set to re-start production at its Stoke-on-Trent factory within days – five weeks after furloughing hundreds of workers.
Production stopped at the firm’s Stoke factory on March 26 as the company responded to the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.
Each worker is receiving 90 per cent pay during the shutdown – irrespective of the £2,500-a-month Government furlough cap.
Now the company has revealed production workers are set to return to the site from Monday, April 27. Work has continued for its warehouse workers and HQ staff.
Michelin Stoke factory manager Francois Levert said: “The factory stopped making tyres on March 26 as part of a planned pause in production because of market conditions. Then the Covid-19 outbreak accelerated and at the moment the vast majority of production workers are part of the Government’s coronavirus job retention scheme.
“The furlough scheme pays 80 per cent of an employee’s salary up to a limit of £2,500 per month, but Michelin is making that up to 90 per cent with no cap because we want to protect people’s finances.
“It’s a challenging time for everyone and we really appreciate the flexibility and commitment shown by our whole workforce. A huge amount of work has been done to make sure that our manufacturing employees are safer than ever when they return to work, and we have invested in equipment and developed exceptionally stringent procedures to that end.
“There are many variables which go into deciding when a factory will reopen, including safety, materials supply, and demand. But at the moment we expect our machines to be up and running by the end of April, so we hope to welcome back all our manufacturing colleagues who are not self-isolating or able to work from home by then.”
Union leaders have been in discussion with the company.
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Unite’s Michelin works convener Rob Taylor said: “Everybody in the factory, apart from those considered vulnerable, will be returned to work from Monday, April 27. There will be a phased return to the site.
“During the shutdown there’s been a lot of hard work going on in the background to try to make the site as safe as possible for all those who are returning.
“It’s only through working together in these difficult times that we manage to get through it.
“They’ve used global best practices, way above UK guidelines, to keep people safe in the factory.”
It has emerged that Michelin has donated 1,500 face masks to Stoke-on-Trent City Council‘s care workers.
Mr Levert added: “We are incredibly grateful for what the care workers are doing and we are conscious of the risks they are taking on our behalf. Now we are looking to produce masks as well. Our returning factory employees would benefit from these, but it could also lead to further donations.”
Michelin is one of a number of local companies supporting the council’s coronavirus relief effort. It comes as personal protective equipment (PPE) is needed in vast quantities.
Council leader Abi Brown said: “Michelin has donated 1,500 pairs of visors to us. We are really pleased about it and they have a long history in the city and are very proud of their connection with Stoke-on-Trent.
“They’ve stepped up to help our front-line staff, our care workers. We put out a call for PPE from businesses and we’ve also had help from Fenton-based Fenns and Kirklands.
“We don’t know how much we need. We’ve had a supply from the Government but it’s really important for me, as the leader, to know that our staff on the front-line have the necessary equipment they need. Anything anyone locally can give us is great.”