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170 jobs moving from Black Country to Eastern Europe as Tipton factory shuts

By John Corser | Tipton | Business | Published:

A company specialising in car door handles and lock sets is to shut down its Black Country factory in December with the loss of up to 170 jobs.

Dark clouds over Huf, which is moving its UK operation to Eastern Europe

Huf UK’s operation, currently based off the Black Country New Road in Tipton, is being switched to Poland and Romania with an employee claiming Brexit has been a factor.

Managing director Omer Hamza, who broke the news to employees, was said to be in Germany yesterday and not available for comment.

Huf UK, which was formed in 1987, is part of the German Huf Group which operates in 14 countries and employs around 10,000 worldwide.

Increasing competition and declining sales

Maria Lahaye-Geusen, head of communications for the group, confirmed that the staff had been informed in an employee meeting that the plant will close by the end of 2019.

“About 170 employees will be affected by this decision that was taken in consequence of increased competition in the automotive industry and continuously declining sales volume at the plant.

Huf UK's base off the Black Country New Road in Tipton

“In spite of far-reaching efforts to improve the competitiveness of the Tipton plant which supplies door and tailgate handles, brackets and lock sets to automotive manufacturers, a sufficient utilization of its capacities cannot be granted in the long run,” she explained.

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"Therefore, the Huf Group management decided to transfer the remaining work load to other manufacturing sites in the company’s European network."

Huf UK - which served customers including Jaguar Land Rover, BMW, Daimler, Honda and Volvo - had a turnover of £50.6 million and pre-tax profit of £6.8m in 2017 when 223 were employed at the factory .

It was originally located in Wednesbury and moved to the Tipton site in 1997, where most of the work is plastic moulding, painting and assembly.

Opportunity to apply in Poland

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Employees at Tipton are being offered the opportunity to apply for jobs at the Polish and Romanian factories and some of the employees at Tipton are from those countries.

One of the Huf UK workforce, who has worked at the firm for 17 years and did not wish to be identified, said they were told by Mr Hamza that the company would close in December and they were all being made redundant.

The father-of-two said: “We were told it was all due to Brexit.”

A sign of the times for Huf UK?

He said that in recent months machinery at the Tipton site had begun to be shipped to Poland.

"It was ringing alarm bells with us. It seemed like the company was slowly being drained. Our hours kept being changed.

"When we were told the company was closing, we all felt let down by the whole Huf Group.

"It's a skilled workforce, with many people having worked there for over 20 years," he added.

Redundancy pay

Mr Hamza told staff at a meeting: “We deeply regret that phasing out production at Tipton has become inevitable. But we are committed to minimize hardships for all employees affected by the plant closure by comprehensive severance packages."

Mrs Lahaye-Geusen said that Huf had been unable to find new customers to replace lost orders and was unable to utilise capacity at the Tipton site to the full.

She said the group was implementing a restructuring programme in order to improve its competitiveness and profitability.

"The programme implies comprehensive measures to improve efficiency in administration and production as well as an extensive cost-cutting programme to achieve the necessary returns to further invest in innovations," she added.

"The target is to secure the company’s market position as one of the leading suppliers for vehicle access and drive authorization systems."

John Corser

By John Corser
Business Reporter - @JohnCorser_Star

Express & Star Business Editor at head office, Wolverhampton. Welcomes all news of companies and business organisations.

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