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Wednesday, October 21, 1998 Published at 07:26 GMT 08:26 UK


Business: The Company File

Fears over more Rover job cuts

Rover workers are facing an uncertain future

Thousands of workers at Rover face the possibility of losing their jobs.

Union leaders are facing calls to agree drastic cost savings measures at the car maker, including a possible wage freeze and up to 3,000 job losses.

The future of the Longbridge factory in Birmingham, which employs more than 14,000 workers, is also in doubt because of mounting losses at the BMW-owned company.


[ image: Rover is pinning its hopes on the success of the Rover 75.]
Rover is pinning its hopes on the success of the Rover 75.
National union leaders are to meet in Birmingham, following a gathering of hundreds of union officials from Rover factories across the country where they will discuss the options available.

These could include re-opening a three-year pay deal which might see wages frozen, reductions in sickness and other benefits, huge improvements in productivity and major job cuts.

Trade and Industry Secretary Peter Mandelson has said that he believes Longbridge has a future, but conceded that the factory was facing "critical new challenges".

The meeting between unions and senior management comes 24 hours after Rover's German boss delivered a warning about the future.


Patrick Bartlett: Rover has to cut productivity gap
Bernd Pischetsrieder, Chairman of Rover's parent company, BMW, said more redundancies, a cut in employment costs and increased working flexibility were all options in the face of the "very real difficulties" the company is facing.

Mr Pischetsrieder was speaking at the Birmingham Motor Show and his words took the gloss off Rover's high profile launch of its top of the range car, the Rover 75.

Rover has already announced earlier this year it was cutting its workforce in the UK by 1,500.

Earlier this month the company also said production at Longbridge will be cut back during December as part of a "business realignment process".

Government talks

Mr Pischetsrieder said the target of intensive talks the company was now having was "to secure a profitable future for Rover and all its plants".

He added: "There are also talks with the British Government ... but it is not our style to discuss these crucial issues with our partners via the media."


[ image: The strong pound and low productivity means that costs have to be cut at Rover]
The strong pound and low productivity means that costs have to be cut at Rover
Asked about the future of Longbridge, Rover Chairman Dr Walter Hasselkus, said: "Longbridge is very important to us. We want to stay in Longbridge and we are committed to Longbridge.

"But that can only happen if there is a commercial and viable solution to our difficulties."

The General Secretary of the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union, Ken Jackson, said: "High interest rates and the strong pound have put companies like Rover under severe pressure.

"But what has added to the uncertainty throughout industry is the failure to join the single currency."





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