End the jobs slaughter

MANUFACTURING INDUSTRY faces tens of thousands of job losses. Whole cities could be decimated; estates like Blackbird Leys, next to the Cowley plant in Oxford, will be left with no jobs.

A Rover shop steward

50,000 jobs or more are threatened in the West Midlands and 25,000 in Oxford and Swindon.

Component manufacturers are laying workers off and putting them on short time. Transport firm Excel Logistics has laid off 100, a steering column manufacturer has already cut jobs. Bertrand Feltra, a seat company in Faringdon Oxfordshire is closing with the loss of 150 jobs.

Lucas Verity, now TIW, have lost jobs. 4,000 brake units have already been sent back to them from Cowley. This will mean more unemployment in Swansea.

In 1994 Rover was making a small profit in association with Honda. There were three Rover cars in the top ten sellers. BMW took over when the firm was making money. But they just wanted the Solihull plant to get the 4X4 technology.

Then the Tories refused to let the company be broken up because they were scared of losing Tory seats in the West Midlands.

The only investment in Longbridge has been in the Mini. BMW got the Mini, the Rolls-Royce name and the 4X4 technology, by cherry-picking Rover technology. Now BMW are ripe for take-over themselves.

In November 1998, when BMW said they were losing £600 million, they put a gun to our heads, accept the flexibility arrangements or else. They cut our wages and we have yet to see the 35-hour week.

Union leaders swallowed this. We should have struck to protect our jobs, pay and conditions. The new Rover 75 was making money then. Cowley voted against the deal but at Longbridge and Swindon it was pushed through by threatening closure.

This flexible working agreement sucked the life out of Cowley. They promised us 1,000 jobs but they brought in temporary agency labour and workers from Longbridge to work on the Rover 75 because they had no work up there.

Now Longbridge will just be a rump and there are no guarantees for Cowley.

The company’s laying people off to stop a fightback. Cowley will be shut for four weeks at least. When we’re laid off we just get basic pay, with no night shift allowance. Most people will be losing at least £80 a fortnight at the moment.

The union leadership are calling for nationalisation now, but unfortunately they’re still looking for another car company to buy Rover. Everyone wants Rover to be kept as a group and nationalised.