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Thursday, December 3, 1998 Published at 08:21 GMT

Business: The Company File

Rover workers study deal

It is hoped the Rover R75 will improve the firm's prospects

Thousands of Rover car workers have been given first-hand details of a survival plan aimed at securing the company's future at a series of mass meetings arranged by the motor giant.

Officials explained the proposed agreement at a series of meetings at Birmingham's NEC before a ballot of the 39,000-strong workforce over the next two weeks.

The plan offers £2bn for investment in new car models in return for workers accepting radical new practices and job cuts through voluntary redundancies.

The deal has already been sanctioned by senior union officials following more than a month of negotiations.

[ image: Departing chairman Walter Hasselkus negotiated the package]
Departing chairman Walter Hasselkus negotiated the package
The mood of the meetings seemed positive and many of the workers said they would accept the deal when it is put out to ballot next week.

Under the terms, 2,500 jobs will be cut and radical new working practices introduced, but job losses will be voluntary and spread across the company.

Workers' hours will be cut from 37 to 35 a week.

New shift patterns will be introduced, with production running up to 100 hours a week at each plant in five day and night shifts including a Saturday morning if necessary, at standard rates of pay.

Chief union negotiator Tony Woodley, of the Transport and General Workers Union, said the deal would help the company prosper and "ultimately survive."

Ken Jackson of the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union said workers could not afford to reject it.

Workers will vote over the next week, with the result due around December 11.

Firm gets new chairman

Rover is also awaiting the arrival of new chairman Werner Samann, a BMW board member, who is replacing Walter Hasselkus following his surprise resignation earlier this week.

Mr Hasselkus, who headed talks with union leaders that produced the rescue package, resigned because the company had "got it wrong" under his stewardship.

If accepted by the workforce the plan will then go to the BMW board for approval.

BMW chairman Bernd Pischetsrieder said the agreement would lead to cost savings of £150m a year from 2000.

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