The break-up of UK car maker Rover has been described as “devastating” news for Birmingham. Leader of Birmingham City Council, Albert Bore, said he could not believe that “these decisions have been taken and that Longbridge is being, in a sense, cast to the wolves.”
Mr Bore forecast that if the closure of Longbridge, which employs 9,000 workers, went ahead, it would see the city’s unemployment rate rise from 9% to at least 12%. Local MP Richard Burden said BMW had made commitments to Rover and had “ratted on those commitments”.
The company would not be easily forgiven for that, he said. At Longbridge, two assembly line workers spoke of the anger felt by employees. Chris McDonald, who has worked at the plant for 15 years, said he was “disgusted” with BMW.
They are burglars
Longbridge Rover worker Chris McDonald: “They have come in through the front door and walked out of the back door with all the money. His colleague, Geoff Caulkin, was equally angry. “I have got a mortgage and three kids. I have been here 21 years and I can’t believe what has happened today.”
“I hope there is some kind of future left for us,” he said.
Unions seek talks
Union leaders are seeking urgent talks with Rover’s prospective new owner, Alchemy, to try to secure workers’ jobs. Bill Morris, general secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union (TGWU), said: “We very much regret the decision…and we are now urgently trying to meet with Alchemy.”
Sir Ken Jackson, general secretary of the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union, said the last few years had “shattered” the confidence of Rover workers and Alchemy would have to restore trust by demonstrating their commitment. The TGWU’s chief negotiator Tony Woodley was bitter about the news, describing it as “the bleakest day in British manufacturing industry.
Mr Woodley said unions had no confidence in Alchemy’s ability to continue production of Rovers and MGs at Longbridge. “Alchemy is a company with no track record. I find it difficult to believe that they have the finance in the medium and long term to keep this car plant open,” he said.
Relief in Oxford
John Power, a former Lord Mayor of Oxford who spent 21 years working at Rover’s Cowley factory, said he was elated that BMW had decided to hold on to the Rover works in Oxford and switch production of the new Mini to the plant. Speaking outside the main gates to the site he said: “I’m obviously delighted with this decision and delighted for the workforce and the city as a whole.
“It’s the right decision…it would have been an absolute tragedy should BMW have sold off Cowley.”