Socialist Worker

‘Riches for Rover boss—but what about us?’

Issue No. 1929

WORKERS AT Rover’s Longbridge plant in Birmingham are facing more uncertainty after the news that a Chinese firm is manoeuvring to take over the company.

Four years ago around 100,000 people demonstrated in support of Rover workers when the company seemed set to close.

It was bought out by John Towers and his Phoenix company—who have grabbed fortunes.

Five Phoenix directors took home more than £16 million last year in salaries and pension contributions—despite the fact that MG Rover lost £89 million.

Even Jim O’Donnell, boss of BMW UK which used to run Rover, attacked the four businessmen who own MG Rover, saying they were “the unacceptable face of capitalism”.

Appeal court judges last week tore up an agreement protecting Rover workers from compulsory job losses. This had been negotiated with BMW in 1997.

Kevin Flanagan, a Rover worker, told Socialist Worker, “Towers and the directors paid £10 for Rover in 2000. They are business people. They don’t worry about the workers. They think that if it goes bust they’ll be OK because of the pension deals. Rover has signed a deal with the Chinese Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation. The company will be OK—but will the workers? What if they decide to build all the cars in China? At a meeting last week management were talking about the company being ‘better’ and ‘leaner’. I thought, ‘Hang on, that could mean job cuts.’ We are laid off this week because we’re producing too many cars and not enough people are buying them. We are all very worried for the future. The main area of the car industry in Britain is still the Midlands. But it’s getting smaller and smaller. Before you know it there won’t be a car industry in Britain—it’ll be like the mines and the steel works. The unions should have been doing something about this a long time ago. There’s at least a coach going over to Coventry on Saturday for the Jaguar demonstration. Rover was in the same situation as Jaguar Browns Lane four years ago. They showed solidarity then. Now it’s our turn.”

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Sat 27 Nov 2004, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1929
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