Michelin has agreed to consider Scottish Government proposals that could save its closure-threatened Dundee tyre plant, MSPs have been told.
Scottish Economy Secretary Derek Mackay said an action group, which he will chair, has been established to develop the proposition and it will meet in the city on Monday.
Mr Mackay said: “We’re aware that this task is not easy one, and there are significant challenges to be faced.
“But we are, as a government, determined to do everything within our power, to prevent this closure.”
The developments emerged after the company announced that the tyre factory, which has 845 workers, will cease production within two years.
Dundee City Council leader John Alexander has described the proposed shutdown as a “body blow” for all of the staff.
A meeting was held on Tuesday at the plant, while production has been suspended until Thursday to allow employees to digest the news.
Mr Mackay, who was in Dundee on Tuesday to meet representatives from Michelin, the Unite union and Dundee City Council, later returned to the Scottish Parliament to update MSPs on the situation.
He said he met Michelin group executives on Sunday with Scottish Enterprise and “they have agreed to consider a proposition we will bring forward to secure a sustainable future for the plant”.
Mr Mackay told the chamber that “good will” between unions and Michelin was part of the reason Michelin is willing to listen to the proposition.
He said: “Michelin’s announcement that it intends to close its plant in Dundee is devastating, not just for those who work at the plant but their families and the whole of the city of Dundee and the wider area.
“The Scottish Government will do all we can to secure a future for the plant and the workforce.
“Let me be clear – we will leave no stone unturned in our efforts to keep this plant operation in Dundee.
“Our top priority is to pursue options for the site to continue with commercial production.”
Potential options include “repurposing” the factory to do other work for Michelin.
The market for premium smaller tyres such as those produced at the Tayside factory has dropped significantly due to an increase in cheap imports from Asia and a shift to larger car tyres, according to the French firm.
It says it is not economically viable to produce small, low-cost tyres at the Dundee site or switch to the production of larger tyres.
The plant opened in 1972 is due to cease operations by mid-2020.
Unite said it had been working on a “flexibility agreement” involving voluntary redundancies and changes to the shift patterns over the last two months to secure the factory’s future.
It said it was given no notice of Monday evening’s announcement.
Many workers said they found out via the news and social media.
Marc Jackson, Unite Michelin convener, said: “It is important to stress to the workforce and the wider community in Dundee that Unite has a viable plan on the table.
“The flexibility agreement, which we believed would be signed-off this week, takes into consideration the current challenging market conditions but we have a plan in place to manage this situation over the coming years.
“The workforce can be assured that Unite will work tirelessly to ensure that this flexibility agreement is reconsidered by the Michelin Group and that the factory can stay open.”
Marc Jackson, Unite Michelin convenor said: “To stress to the workforce and the wider community in Dundee, Unite has a viable plan on the table. It is a plan that can work for the workforce and the company.” pic.twitter.com/T8gAfiJ4kX
— Unite Scotland (@UniteScotland) November 6, 2018
Dundee East MSP Shona Robison said all options would be looked at.
She said: “It’s not going to be easy but one thing that really comes through is just how strong the workforce is.”
Dundee is part of a £350 million Tay Cities Deal aimed at boosting economic growth in the region through investment from both the Scottish and UK Governments.
Mr Mackay has called on the UK Government to bring forward additional measures and investment in light of Michelin’s announcement.
Labour MSP Jenny Marra told the Scottish Parliament the proposed £350 million for the Tay Cities deal “will not now touch the sides, especially as investments will go to other parts of the region”.
Michelin said it would provide a personalised support package for each worker, with the opportunity to train in new skills and the possibility of being redeployed within the company or elsewhere.
It will begin a consultation with employees and trade unions on the closure plan over the next fortnight.