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WATCH: Former Goodyear workers remember the good times

Staffordshire | News | Published:

Goodyear became like a family for many of the people who worked in the iconic factory.

Now as its 330-strong workforce deal with the shock of its impending closure, generations who spent their careers in tyre manufacturing are looking back on their glory years.

"It is heart breaking but we are all going to have to move on now," says Balwinder Rai.

"The people you work with become like your family, you spend so much time with them and become so close."

Mr Rai is one of the workers who were told they will be losing their jobs as the landmark Wolverhampton factory prepares to shut down in 2017.

The closure of the Bushbury Lane site, near Stafford Road, brings an end to 90 years of manufacturing history in the city.

Gurdev Rai (on right) taken in the early 1960s with racing driver Jackie Stewart

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In the 1980s, 6,500 people were employed at the site, which had a reputation as a place where different generations of families could find well paid work in the city.

Balwinder, aged 56, from Tettenhall, has worked at Goodyear for 36 years, moving from the racing division to the powder room.

He was getting ready to start a late shift when he heard the news that he would be losing his job in the near future.

He said: "It was such a shock to me, I found out from reading the news before I started my shift.

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"It is disappointing, morale is down, everyone is downhearted.

"If we weren't meeting our targets then it would be understandable, but everyone has been putting in more than 100 per cent to get the work done.

"The local management and union bosses have supported the workers throughout all of this, they have been fantastic, I just think the decision has been made a long time ago.

"It isn't myself I am concerned about, I am more worried about the young workers who have just taken out a mortgage or started a young family.

"I hope they will get the support they deserve when all of this is done."

Gurdev Rai, when he worked in the racing tyre division taken in the early 1960s.

Balwinder's father, Gurdev Rai, 79, worked in the racing division section of the factory between 1959 and 1980.

When his son started looking for work, he instructed him to go to Goodyear.

The pair worked together for one year before Gurdev took redundancy.

Gurdev still speaks proudly of his time at the factory and has numerous keepsakes including badges, patches and photographs from his days with the company at home, including one snap of himself alongside racing legend Jackie Stewart, taken in the early 60s.

He said: "I was highly thought of at Goodyear, they knew how hard I worked and that helped when my son was looking for work.

"At the time there was nowhere better in the city to work, you were well paid and worked for a proud company.

"I learned a lot from my time at Goodyear and I am thankful that I worked there."

The factory's mixing arm produces compounds used to make Goodyear tyres and is the biggest employer at the site, with 267 workers.

Another 53 work on producing retread tyres and 10 more in support roles.

David Belcher, 55, from Fordhouses, worked at the factory for 24 years, starting as an apprentice in 1976 before leaving in 2001.

He said: "I remember being so glad when I got the apprenticeship there as an engineer because they were one of, if not the, city's biggest employer of the time.

"There must have been more than 6,000 workers there when I started out.

"It was like a family inside the factory.

"There were many people there but it had a family feel to it.

"Everyone was there for each other and supported one another.

"It wasn't just a workplace either as many colleagues became your friends and you'd meet up away from work.

"I feel so sorry for the workers there, it's a real shame.

"They have been a big part of Wolverhampton over many years."

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