Rover Longbridge closure threatens devastation
The Midlands in revolt
SOCIALIST WORKER reporter SAM ASHMAN and photographer JESS HURD travelled round Birmingham and the West Midlands talking to people about their reaction to the threat to Longbridge and why they are marching on Saturday.
'These bosses are ruthless'
"THERE ARE 450 people where I work. We supply parts to Rover. People are very worried, especially coupled with the threat of Dagenham closing. Employers see workers as the nuts and bolts of a big money making machine. They believe they can chuck any screw out when they want to and bring in a fresh one. The casualties are going to be enormous. It's not just the suppliers. It's the suppliers to the suppliers as well. The government should take a lead. They should nationalise the place. This goes deep into the political arena. What is democracy?
Big multinationals like BMW are ruthless. The don't recognise the rights of workers or governments. We are owned by a French multinational. My members are harassed and victimised on a daily basis, not because of their colour or their religion but because they are workers. The problem is nobody is prepared to have a go at the bloody top. Our shop stewards are distributing leaflets and petitions about the demonstration. There should be support from all quarters."
- TOM TOMOVIC, TGWU convenor, Hutchinson UK Ltd, Telford
What future for us all?
"I CANNOT easily describe my feelings of disgust and revulsion at such cynical demolition. This is grand public larceny. On the very day that the government proposed new forms of compulsory job seeking, the future of Rover was handed to a firm best known for asset stripping. Our school is in a desperately poor area of the city. Already people feel abandoned.
The closure of Longbridge will be like the closure of the mines. The loss of jobs will mean years of misery and areas becoming like ghost towns. Two thirds of our children have some connection with Rover. Our pupils become engineers, they work on the track, they do maintenance or cleaning or work on the sandwich round. They have mums and dads and uncles and aunts who work there.
We're telling them to work hard and do their best and then they take away the biggest employer in the area. We tell our kids to work hard just like BMW told the workforce to. They accepted all the new working practices, the anti-social shifts. They trusted them. BMW are drunk with power and profit. Why should six or seven people on their board be able to make decisions that will affect the lives of 50,000 people in this region? How dare they? It's got to be nationalised, like Renault in France. It can work if there is government will."
- ROGER PERKS, headmaster of Baverstock School, Birmingham
"HIS IS going to devastate the area. Health is attached to lifestyle. The poorer you are, the poorer your health. This will affect the whole community. BMW have been really underhand about it all. If the shoe was on the other foot, the German government wouldn't let it happen. But our government is just letting it happen without putting up a fight.
It's wrong it's all happening under a Labour government. But they don't seem like a Labour government. They're not what they used to represent. They've given up all their ideals."
- LINDA STEEL, nurse at Selly Oak Hospital
"I'VE GOT friends who work at Longbridge. I've worked there. The news is devastating. I know what it's like to be made redundant. I got made redundant by the Co-op two years ago and I'm still searching. They make a load of promises about new jobs but they never come to fruition. It's cloud cuckoo land.
There are jobs-but for �4 an hour, with Saturday and Sunday working. I'm in my fifties. I don't want to get up at 1.30am on a Saturday and a Sunday. To be honest, I've always voted Labour. But I've never been so badly off. It's a joke."
- PAUL ATKINS, unemployed HGV driver, Northfield, Birmingham
'Like a nuclear bomb'
Suffering will hit millions
"FATHERS, SONS, wives, daughters-whole families are going to be devastated by this. Everybody will suffer-like all the components manufacturers, for example. Wolverhampton factories will be hit. It's not just Birmingham. It will be right across the Midlands. It's terrible. But this is what big firms are like. They just want to get their competitors out of the way."
- COLIN BRAZIER, ambulance driver, Wolverhampton
'I'll occupy. I'll do whatever it takes'
"THIS IS going to be like a nuclear bomb spreading out across Birmingham and the Midlands taking all the jobs. Longbridge is the hub of a big wheel and the spokes are all the places it reaches out to. If Longbridge shuts the whole wheel will go with it.
I really feel for other people. I'm lucky, I've lived in my house for 20 years. I don't have a big mortgage and young kids. Our kids are 11 and 15. I explained to them we won't be able to buy anything now and my daughter said, "Don't worry, Dad. I won't ask you for anything."
I'm very angry. People say there is nothing we can do. But if we fight, at least we've got a chance. I remember the miners in 1992-that was such a waste. We've got to save our jobs. I'll stand out in the cold, in the rain, I'll occupy, I'll do whatever it takes. I'm not saying I like the job-it's hard. But it's my job. I've done it ten years. And I want to keep it.
The free market is just a wilderness. The government has got to step in. It feels like you've got chains round your ankles from the bosses and your hands tied behind your back by the union leaders."
- KEVIN FLANAGAN, Longbridge worker
"IT'S A terrible struggle bringing up kids in this society. I've scrimped and saved for everything all my life. I hoped it would be better for my kids but now it seems like nothing is going to be made here anymore. It will just be Pound Savers and secondhand shops.
Everywhere I look I see working class people who are depressed, stressed, bullied, underpaid and unfulfilled in their work. I work in telesales, another soul-destroying job. You go along with it, you have kids, get a mortgage. But when you stand back and look at it, the system is disgusting. I just feel used by the people at the top. It's time we started standing up for ourselves."
- CAROLINE FLANAGAN
"CLOSURE SHOULD not happen. The government should bail Rover out and put in some decent management. I'm old-style Labour, I believe in nationalisation. People's lives are going to be ruined- workers, local suppliers, the people who take in the sandwiches. The whole community will be affected. People in their fifties have no chance of a job. I would go along with anything the workforce decided to do."
- EDDIE BUTLER, AEEU shop steward, Dudley