Trade unions will start a boycott of PSA Peugeot Citroën on Friday with a £1m poster and advertising campaign attacking the French carmaker’s plan to close its Coventry factory.
The campaign is designed to undermine Peugeot’s UK sales and force it to reconsider a union rescue proposal. Tony Blair, prime minister, on Wednesday lent his weight to the union’s rescue idea, calling on the company to give it the “most serious consideration”.
Amicus and the Transport and General Workers’ Union, which are funding the campaign, hope it will send a message to other multi-nationals that they cannot shift jobs to low-wage countries without losing sales. Derek Simpson, general secretary of Amicus, said: “The message must be that if you want to sell in Britain then you need to build in Britain or, in the case of service industries, employ people in Britain.”
“This is not just about a particular company, Peugeot or any other, it is about a strategy that aims to defend UK workers and UK jobs.”
The Amicus official who drew up the advertising put it more bluntly: “It is doomsday for Peugeot. They are going to regret it for the rest of their lives.”
The UK is the third largest market for the company, after France and Spain and the unions believe cutting its sales by 15,000-20,000 cars would eliminate savings from the closure, although they hope for a bigger effect.
However, the company reiterated threats made to the factory’s 2,300 workers that a boycott would create a “significant risk that the group will change its mind about the level of financial packages and the two-stage approach to the closure”. The plant is due to cut half its workforce next month before closing next year.
Peugeot said Ryton, while not loss-making, was not profitable enough, and the union plan “still doesn’t make Ryton viable in terms of economics”.
The union suggested cutting a shift until 2010, when a car planned for a new factory in Slovakia could be built in Coventry instead, with components sourced in the UK to cut shipping costs.
The advertising, featuring the cross of St George with the slogan “think of England”, is reminiscent of the high-profile “I’m Backing Britain” campaign of 1968, which was supported by Harold Wilson, Labour prime minister at the time.
The boycott call is being made even though workers at the Ryton, Coventry plant rejected strike plans. The unions will hold a second ballot of workers who are remaining at the factory in an attempt to garner support for the boycott, although it remains unclear whether this will be consultative or a request for industrial action.
Tony Woodley, TGWU general secretary, said: “The unions have produced a robust plan that could provide a profitable future for the Ryton plant. Peugeot is motivated by sheer greed and needs to understand there will be painful consequences if they shut up shop in Britain in this fashion.