Rover workers vote strongly for job cuts plan
By Andrew Garfield
ROVER’S 37,000 workforce yesterday voted overwhelmingly in favour of the car-maker’s plans to cut 2,500 jobs and introduce more flexible working practices in return for a pledge to keep open the Rover plant at Longbridge in the West Midlands. The vote, which was 72 per cent in favour of the plan, paves the way for the group’s German parent, BMW, to approve the pounds 400m of new investment needed to bring the manufacture of the new Mini to Longbridge.
Unions are also hoping that yesterday’s vote will clear the way for an early decision on a further pounds 1.6bn of investment in a new, medium-sized car to be launched early in the next century, once the Government gives its approval to pounds 200m in state aid. The vote follows the resignation of Rover’s chairman, Walter Hasselkus, after failing to return the company to profitability. His place will be taken by fellow German Werner Samman.
Bernd Pischetsrieder, the chairman of BMW’s management board, yesterday welcomed the outcome of the vote. “This decision is a milestone,” he said. “We are very pleased with the results of the ballot.”
Tony Woodley, the Transport & General Workers Union negotiator who fought for the deal added: “For a deal as controversial as this, this is a very good result. I would have been happy with 60/40. I think it is a vote for common sense. I am extremely delighted.” Of the 30,000 workers eligible to vote, 17,784 voted in favour of the deal, with 7,045 against.
The package, which aims to cut pounds 150m a year in overheads, will go some of the way towards bridging the 30 per cent productivity gap between Rover and its key rivals. “The worst thing would have been a grudging victory,” said a Rover spokesman yesterday.
The deal will mean Rover workers moving progressively to a Continental- style 37-hour four-day week, starting next year, which will enable existing capacity to be used more efficiently.