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Big business sharks circle Rover jobs
THE CRISIS threatening 6,000 jobs at the Rover plant at Longbridge has taken another twist.
Negotiations between Rover bosses and the Shanghai Automotive Industrial Corporation (SAIC) have stalled.
Apparently the Chinese bosses have realised just how near Rover's parent company, Phoenix Venture Holdings, is to financial disaster.
The gang of four businessmen behind Phoenix were given the plant in 2000, with a 'soft' loan of £500 million. Since then they have run the company into the ground, whilst ensuring their own pockets were handsomely lined. Now the Chinese company, who were hoping to exploit the Rover workers' skills and get an easy way into the European market, are worried they're being sold a pup.
Blair's government is desperate to avoid job cuts in the West Midlands before the election. The closure of Rover would not only mean the dole for the 6,000 workers directly employed but the jobs of 12,000 workers in Rover's suppliers would be in jeopardy.
In a panic, the government have offered a £100 million 'bridging loan' to try to keep Rover going until the Chinese bosses take over. And even New Labour is making noises about Phoenix putting in more of their own money to ensure the deal goes ahead.
But this doesn't seem to be enough - the new bosses would be liable for workers' pensions and redundancy payments. SAIC want to squeeze as much as they can out of the situation.
When Phoenix took over five years ago, the socialist argued that instead of trusting a gang of businessmen with the workers' future, the trade union leaders should have built a campaign for the renationalisation of Rover. The government can come up with £100 million when they think they might lose MP's seats. Phoenix have been asset stripping since they got their hands on the company.
If these resources were nationalised, under democratic workers' control and management, a real future for the workers' skills would be secured.
The trade union leaders, who backed the now discredited Phoenix deal, should organise a campaign in defence of the workers' jobs. This should involve not only Longbridge but the West Midlands as a whole.
In The Socialist 7 April 2005: