Archive : Union leader accuses Rover of miscalculating labour needs

By Peter Hildrew

A union leader last night accused Jaguar Rover Triumph of seriously miscalculating its labour requirements and sales forecasts for the Rover car factory in Solihull . The shop floor workforce and lhe production capacity there are to be cut by one-third. Mr Grenville Hawley, the national automotive officer for the Transport and General Workers Union, blamed the decision on disappointing demand for the Rover 3500 and said that he was seeking an urgent meeting with the company over the redundancies.

But JRT said that the plant ,only opened in 1976, was not operating at anything like the efficiency it should and that management was no longer prepared lo turn a blind eye to unacceptable manning levels. The factory has been producing 1,150 cars a week on three assembly lines which have a theoretical capacity of about 1,800. One track will now be mothballed and production concentrated on the remaining two with the company hoping to lift output to the new capacity level of 1,250 cars a week. The unions have been told that 1,445 hourly-paid jobs will go out of 4,500 , if possible by natural wastage.

It has appealed for volunteers. About 450 jobs may be on offer at the Canley plant in Coventry, and 250 at the nearby Land-Rover/Range-Rover plant in Solihull. Union officials said that Birmingham workers would not want to travel to Coventry and that some of the Land-Rover jobs would not be suitable for car assembly employees. Compulsory redundancies are therefore likely. JRT said that the third assembly track was never intended for the Rover but for the Triumph Dolomite, which was to have been transferred from Coventry.

This scheme was dropped and Rover production had “spilled over” onto the third line because the required output, was not forthcoming from the other two. But the announcement must put a question mark over the sales prospects for the highly regarded Rover, which was voted Car of the Year in 1977 and is shortly to be launched in the US. But the company insisted that it was happy with the car’s progress.

Keith Adams

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