Bentley is to cut up to 1,000 jobs under a “voluntary release programme” and cannot rule out future compulsory redundancies, the luxury carmaker has announced.
The Crewe-based company said significant effects on its short-term financial outlook means that with “deepest regret” it has informed its 4,200 workers of a programme to significantly reduce the size of the organisation.
A statement said: “Bentley is in the middle of a major change programme started in 2018, driving for consistent financial resilience through rapid productivity improvements across the business.”
The programme led to profits and a record performance in the first quarter of this year, said Bentley, adding: “Although organic growth was the planned solution for the remaining restructure challenge, this was clearly derailed by the impact of the pandemic.
“With this considerable forecast reduction to future revenues, Bentley has hastened plans carrying out a comprehensive review of its cost and investment structure and as the last resort, as with any organisation, the people costs and structure.
“Steps had already been taken to cut or delay unnecessary spend without impacting future product plans. Recruitment was stopped, contractors were released across all business areas, pay was frozen and up to 66% of colleagues at peak were placed on furlough.
“One further clear conclusion was that an urgent reduction in the workforce was unfortunately required.”
Unite said the announcement was “another heavy blow” for the automotive industry following a series of job losses caused by the Covid-19 crisis.
National officer Steve Bush said: “Bentley is a name known around the world for the quality of its vehicles, thanks in large part to the expertise of this highly dedicated and superb workforce.
“To ask 1,000 of them to leave the company, albeit on voluntary terms, is heartbreaking for the workforce and their communities. We are determined to support our members during this process to do what we can to mitigate the jobs lost.”
The announcement was made just weeks after Bentley resumed production in Crewe.
Adrian Hallmark, chief executive officer of Bentley Motors, said: “Losing colleagues is not something we are treating lightly but this is a necessary step that we have to take to safeguard the jobs of the vast majority who will remain, and deliver a sustainable business model for the future through our Beyond100 strategy.
“The voluntary release programme at least allows the colleagues to make the personal choice and leave us with the most appealing and supportive offer possible within the circumstances.
“Covid-19 has not been the cause of this measure but a hastener.
“It is vital, even more so now with what is going on around us that we look to the long-term future of Bentley.
“This means fundamentally redefining our company so we respond immediately to protect the business through this crisis, continue to lead our sector by reinventing the company and look to establish ourselves as the leader in sustainable luxury mobility for the next 100 years.”
Letters have been sent to workers outlining offers of personal financial terms based on length of service, age and salary.
Bentley is also providing financial support on career guidance for workers who choose to pursue a new professional direction.
Unite’s convener at Bentley, Stuart Davis, added: “Our members have shown their commitment to the brand over many years and this should not go unrecognised.
“2020 should have been Bentley’s best ever year but sadly it will now be remembered for all the wrong reasons.”
Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, said: “It has been a black week for UK Automotive with devastating job cuts across retail and manufacturing coming hard on the heels of earlier losses.
“Whilst the industry is fundamentally strong and agile, it is not invincible. Global industries are challenged and we need to ensure the UK has in place a comprehensive strategy to support the sector and the highly skilled workforce on whom it depends.
“As the sector strives to weather the worst storm in a generation, measures to drive cash flow, stimulate demand and, above all, maintain our competitiveness are essential.”