Rover’s ex-workers wage cut scandal

AT A time when workers in Britain are bracing themselves for more bad news, a recent report indicates the true impact of previous large-scale redundancies in the West Midlands. Following the collapse of MG Rover in 2005, 90% of the sacked workers are in employment today. But, the paper by the Work Foundation reports, two-thirds suffered swingeing cuts in pay with the average loss being £5,640.

Ted Smith, Birmingham Socialist Party

MG Rover was one of the region’s largest employers, 6,500 people worked there before its closure. BMW sold it to shady venture capitalists Phoenix Consortium in 2000 for the princely sum of £10. Five years later and £40 million down, Phoenix placed Rover into administration.

Of the former skilled Rover workers who were forced to take jobs in the service sector – retail, call centres etc., the pay cuts averaged £6,000!

This is qualified by the Work Foundation’s senior researcher, Michelle Madhon who said that due to higher than average pay levels at the company: “it was always likely that workers would not be able to find comparable work” and “ex-Rover workers are now in jobs with slightly lower levels of autonomy, challenge and skill use, and fewer opportunities for progression than other workers in the UK.”

Big business and capitalist politicians alike have welcomed the UK becoming a ‘service-based’ economy, with vast swathes of manufacturing jobs having disappeared since the 1980s.

Traditionally jobs in manufacturing offered training, good rates of pay and secure employment.

However this was mainly due to high levels of trade union membership and organisation in factories. The 1970s and 1980s saw many epic battles as workers attempted to defend their living standards against vicious attacks by employers and governments of the time.

Since then bosses have attempted to increase profits and neutralise workers’ struggle by shutting down factories and plants in the UK and moving production abroad to low-wage economies employing super-exploited labour there.

The UK economy is entering recession and with the recent announcement that BT intends to shed 10,000 jobs and Virgin Media 2,500 it remains to be seen where ‘redundant’ workers are expected to find work.

This report makes particularly uncomfortable reading when you consider that until the currently developing crisis we were supposed to have been living in a boom period! Now that boom is over, workers and their unions need to fight to save jobs and for a political programme that puts our interests first, rather than those of the bosses.