Jobs upheaval as Rover closes plant
Up to 260 workers at Rover’s Cowley factory face upheaval after the car firm announced it was closing all tool-making operations in Oxford. Workers were told yesterday that the body and pressings tool manufacture and model making plant at Cowley will shut by next March.
The action follows an internal review which found that closure was the only way to stop the whole of Rover’s tool-making activities closing down. Oxford’s tool-making capacity is expected to be taken on by Rover’s Swindon plant. Managers insist there will be no redundancies among the 260 tool makers in Oxford, but all face relocation to other areas of production or transfers to car plants elsewhere in the country. In a letter to staff, John Briffitt, Rover director of body and pressings, said the action had been taken ‘with regret’.
He wrote: “The Rover Group believes that this action is necessary in order to secure the future of tool manufacture and model making operations in the company. The reality we must face is that tool-making needs fewer people. The alternative to rationalisation of these operations to the Swindon plant would be a gradual run down and closure of all Rover’s tool manufacturing activities.”
Vincent Hammersley, Rover corporate communications manager, said tool and model making in Oxford has become ‘surplus to require- ments’. He told the Oxford Mail: “We need to close this particular off-shoot of tool and model making facilities at Oxford because it is not such a labour intensive operation as it used to be. There are no implications at all and no compulsory redundancies. We have 40,000 people working for the Rover Group and the relocation of 260 is not significant in the wider context.”
He added: “People do not like change, but we do not make cars like we did 50 years ago.”
Tool and model making in Oxford will be gradually scaled down over the next few months and cease completely by next March. One-to-one interviews with workers to assess ‘personal circumstances and aspirations’ will begin in the next few weeks.
One angry employee, who did not wish to be identified but who has worked in the tool making factory for 18 years, said many skilled workers feared being forced to do unskilled work. He said: “I believe they have done this because they can get tools manufactured cheaper outside the UK.”