Caught Between De-Industrialisation and Deprivation

This article appeared in The Courier: 07/11/2018


“Almost 40 years I’ve worked for Michelin and I find out I have lost my job on social media” said a friend of mine last night. As employees were called in for an 8am meeting on Tuesday morning my friend, who sought to remain nameless, said: “I should be insulated by a reasonable redundancy package for my length of service but I have friends who will be lucky to leave with four figure settlements.” He concluded: “To find out online doesn’t cushion, but only adds to, the blow.”

As someone who has experienced redundancy in the last 12 months, I am familiar with the emotions many Michelin employees will be feeling and am genuinely moved by the families whose sustainability will be affected. The factory closure adds another 845 lost jobs to the 1,300 already announced by NHS Tayside earlier this week and accounts for 3.5 per cent of the entire working population of a city that has been dismantled by a domino effect of de-industrialisation over the last five decades.

Even the utterance of household names like Timex, Levi’s and NCR is enough to send chills down the spine of the ordinary Dundonian and yet our city has historically been an industrial and entrepreneurial hub with the once-bustling jute industry being its most notable output in the last century. Michelin opened its doors in 1972, only two years after the last mill closed, and it has been a mainstay for almost 50 years but its demise could entrench the hope of driving deprivation out of Dundee.

The news about Michelin emerged on the same day that The Trussell Trust announced a 15 per cent increase in the use of their services across Scotland and with low income being the biggest driver of foodbank use in Dundee, these losses have the potential to fuel the furnace of financial frailty for families across the city. Work is only the best route out of poverty if work exists in the first place. Otherwise, the journey from the end of austerity to the light of prosperity is but an empty promise.