Goodyear closure: Wolverhampton factory shuts gates for last time after 89 years
Wolverhampton's iconic Goodyear factory closes its gates for the last time today – marking the end of 89 years in the city.
Workers marked the end of an era as the last order was met at the huge plant in Bushbury Lane and they walked out of the gates for the final time.
Now all that remains is for a remaining team of just 37 to 'close down' the site. Around 60 will work their final shifts this week.
Bosses announced it would close last June after concluding it had become unprofitable.
Hundreds of staff have been made redundant over the last 18 months with many expressing their sadness at having to move on.
Cyril Barrett, chairman of the Unite branch at Goodyear, said: "It's a very sad time for many of them as the workforce is really like a family where we've seen generations of people grow up with the company. It's a time of great emotion.
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"In times gone by, Goodyear was a great company and that's what makes it even sadder."
When the announcement was made to close the factory it employed 330 workers – the majority of who were aged over 55.
In recent years it has produced rubber compounds for tyre factories overseas as well as retread tyres. But the firm said the model by which raw materials for the mixing process were imported, and the compounds then exported, was no longer financially viable.
Staff were offered the chance to transfer to work in Mexico – which angered some – and no one took up the offer.
It is believed the majority who have left have now found jobs elsewhere.
Emma Reynolds, MP for Wolverhampton North East, said today was a sad moment for the city: "This is a really sad day for everyone who has worked at the site both recently and over the many years it has been in Wolverhampton. If you live in Wolverhampton the chances are you know someone in your family, or a neighbour, or a friend, who has worked there at some point and so Goodyear has been deeply rooted in our community.
"We did all we could to try and persuade the company to stay but we lost that battle and I wish everyone who has been made redundant well. We have to look to the future now and I hope all the former workers will get new jobs if they haven't already."
The factory was quiet yesterday while outside 'self-styled' John Bull' campaigner Ray Egan held a 'wake' at the Bushbury Lane entrance, complete with wooden coffin.
Drivers showed their support by sounding their horns as they drove past where Mr Egan stood with a Union Flag adorned with the slogan "British workers – we say no to closures." He said: "This is another landmark of Midlands industry which is now biting the dust. I have been to so many closures like this in the last few years in this region and whenever I do I get a lump in my throat. People's livelihoods are at stake and closing at Christmas of all times is insensitive."
A spokesman for Goodyear Dunlop, said: "Over the last 18 months we have worked closely with our associates and the Trade Unions to help those affected by the closure.
"Of those seeking further employment, the majority have secured positions around the local area.
"On Friday 283 associates will have left the site with 37 remaining at the plant to manage the close-down period, due to end in June 2017. We are very grateful to staff for their support and professionalism during this difficult time and wish those affected every success for the future. We continue to support those associates remaining at the plant during close-down and thank them for their ongoing commitment."
The factory opened in 1927 and at its peak covered 88 acres, employed more than 7,000 staff and made tyres for cars, trucks, tractors and even Formula 1 racing teams.
Following a deal with developer St Modwen the site was sold in 2002, production was scaled down and new homes have been built.