Year 2000 No. 49, March 16, 2000

BMW Preparing to Sell Rover:

Threats, Threats and More Threats – What Is the Alternative?

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BMW Preparing to Sell Rover:
Threats, Threats and More Threats – What Is the Alternative?

For Your Information:
Unions Voice Dismay
The Position of BMW

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BMW Preparing to Sell Rover:

Threats, Threats and More Threats – What Is the Alternative?

BMW is to announce today that it will sell the Rover cars division. This puts the future not only of the Longbridge plant at risk, and together with that the livelihoods of tens of thousands of workers throughout the West Midlands, but also puts on the line the future of the other Rover plants in Britain, in Cowley and Solihull.

Workers should also note that this comes at a time when the future of the Ford Dagenham is also under threat because of the "unprofitability" and "low productivity" of the factory and the move by Ford to concentrate production in Germany.

This saga has been going on as long as the workers can remember. When a deal was struck in November 1998, resulting in more job losses and the introduction of flexible working practices which put further pressure on the workers, it was said that this was an end to "fear for the future", a victory for "social partnership", and a "win-win" situation for workers and management. BMW secured a promise from the government of hundreds of millions of pounds in this situation, provided it did not run foul of the European Commissioners’ decision on free competition with the European Union. In short, the lot of the workers has always been one of uncertainty, of being told their fate is in someone else’s hands, but that there is no alternative, or even, against the plain facts which stuck out like a sore thumb, that to accept the agenda of the capitalists was the best way they could benefit.

This can be summed up by saying that no rights of the workers as a collective have been recognised either by the BMW monopoly or by the government. Their whole future has been made contingent on BMW’s success in the global market, in a situation of heavily sharpened competition and a cut-throat imperative to dominate the market, particularly in Europe, where, because of the competition, there is a massive overproduction of vehicles.

The workers cannot accept that this should be the case. There is an alternative, there is a way out of the crisis, and that consists of workers getting organised to assert their rights and fight against the anti-social offensive. In particular, they must get organised on the basis of setting the agenda themselves, and refusing to accept that they should exist on the margins of society, a victim of the agenda of the monopolies. This is the only way that the workers can begin to turn things around, so that they begin to take up the question of building a society which is in their favour.

We will continue to provide coverage of the Rover situation as it develops and do everything we can to assist the Rover workers in affirming their rights. We hold that it is the development of the workers’ movement itself against the anti-social offensive and for a society which guarantees their rights that will provide the way forward out of the crisis. We invite the participation of Rover workers in how to develop this pro-social agenda.

Article Index


For Your Information:

Unions Voice Dismay

As union leaders flew to Germany to discuss the future of Rover, the chief negotiator for the TGWU, Tony Woodley, said he believed that selling Rover would not make sense for BMW. "It would also be unacceptable to the workforce and, no doubt, the British government." He also stressed, "If this company does think that it can take a decision to break up this massive company and just walk away leaving maybe just 15,000-18,000 employees going to the dole whilst actually keeping hold of the jewel in the crown, 4x4 vehicles and the Mini, we’re not prepared to stand for that."

Sir Ken Jackson, general secretary of the AEEU, challenged BMW to clarify its position on Rover. He said, "I am confident BMW will remain committed to Rover but they have to make their position absolutely clear. It is time to remove any shadow of a doubt about the future."

Article Index


For Your Information:

The Position of BMW

A BMW spokesman said that the potential sale of Rover would not include the sale of any stake in BMW itself. He said, "BMW is not up for sale, not even some shares."

An industry source said that BMW would put forward up to four proposals, one that would mean closing the Rover plant in Longbridge, rather than resorting to a sell-off of Rover as a whole.

Analysts have said that the recent agreement between General Motors and Fiat put companies like Peugeot and BMW centre stage as possible candidates for take-over. GM and Fiat had announced that they plan to swap shareholdings and join forces to expand in Europe and Latin America. The analysts say that by shedding Rover, BMW may be cutting its losses and returning to its highly profitable German luxury car business.

Responding to these reports, BMW on Tuesday said that selling Rover was "one of several possibilities", but did not give a hard and fast answer on the fate of Rover and did not elaborate on claims that it planned to keep Rover’s profitable Landrover and Mini models. It said in a statement, "The management board of BMW has for the past several months considered several scenarios regarding how to restructure the Rover group. The company has reported regularly to the public about the current situation at Rover. The scenario referred to in the article [in a German newspaper] as a plan is just one of the conceivable variants. The decision preferred by the board of management will be presented during the regular supervisory board meeting on 16 March and published afterwards."

The speculation is that Rover will be sold off to venture capitalists rather than another car manufacturer. This is fuelling the fear that when sold, the Rover plants in Britain will be closed down.

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