JCB Telescopic Handlers

JCB Telescopic Handlers come down the production line at JCB World Headquarters in Rocester, England.

Workers at JCB’s United Kingdom factories are facing a shorter working week due to fears that the coronavirus will have a huge impact on component parts arriving from China.

Production levels at UK factories are being reduced; 4,000 JCB workers and agency shop-floor employees had their hours cut beginning Feb. 17. All overtime has also been suspended.

The measures were discussed with the GMB union. The changes will see the introduction of a 34-hour week for UK production employees until further notice. JCB employees will be paid for a 39-hour week and will bank the hours, working them back later in the year.

JCB Chief Operating Officer Mark Turner said, “The disruption to the component supply chain in the UK comes at a time when demand for JCB products is very strong. So while this course of action is very unfortunate, it’s absolutely necessary to protect the business and our skill base.

“Production in the UK has so far been unaffected by the situation in China. However more than 25 percent of JCB’s suppliers in China remain closed. Those that have reopened are working at reduced capacity and are struggling to make shipments. It is therefore clear that the inbound supply of certain components from Chinese partners will be disrupted in the coming weeks as they seek to replenish their stocks. This inevitably means we will not have the required amount of parts needed to build our forecast number of machines in the short term.”

He emphasized that production would continue with the same number of employees, albeit with fewer numbers of machines on the lines.

“These measures will ensure that, while we will produce machines in lower-than-anticipated numbers, we will do so with the same number of employees, whose skills we will need to fulfil customer orders when the situation returns to normal,” he said. “We are keeping the situation under review and we anticipate a surge in production levels once this period of supply disruption has passed.”

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With 16 years experience behind him, award-winning agricultural journalist Chris McCullough is always on the hunt for his next story. He grew up on the family dairy farm in the heart of Northern Ireland and is based on the country’s east coast. He travels around the world to bring readers international news.