new fight for motor jobs


Workers at Jaguar, Rover/MG Rover and Land Rover are facing up to another fight for jobs. Jaguar (owned by Ford) production at Coventry is under closure threat - 2000 jobs are at stake. Production would either be transferred to the Castle Bromwich site or directly to the US. All Jaguar sites in Britain are already on short time working. Land Rover (also owned by Ford) is seeing sales fall in the US. This is expected to lead to company proposals for a rationalisation of sites - closures and transfer of production, again possibly to the US since it remains the major market.

Land Rover will stop buying Phoenix engines from the Rover group from 2006. This will add to further production difficulties for Rover and may be presented as another excuse for transferring production to China. This will put 5,000 Rover jobs under threat.

Rover's famed phoenix recovery seems doomed. The British market for Rover and MG Rover has fallen to 1.65% and 1.33% respectively - a drop of over 35% in less than a year. Rover has now entered into production arrangements with Shanghai China Brilliance Group, coupled with an import arrangement with the Indian manufacturer Tata. Rover/MG Rover are simply re-badging these imported cars with a Rover logo.

If Ford via Land Rover and Jaguar is seeking to close excess capacity and consolidate production either at remaining Ford plants or in the USA, then the strategy entered into less than 5 years ago to seize prestigious competitors' labels and assets will dramatically re-shape the British car manufacturing industry. Ford will remain the prime player especially if Rover fades and becomes a mere import company based in China.

Amicus and the TGWU have responded jointly to these threats with a clear view that in the event of a Ford-inspired closure programme in Jaguar and Land Rover, they will take the fight directly to Ford, cutting through all the nonsense of secondary action or not. Ford is the owner, orchestrating job loss across its subsidiaries. It will be almost impossible to unravel which car component is produced where and is fitted where - so the battle needs to be taken into every Ford plant in Britain.

• The survival of the Centre for Engineering and Manufacturing Excellence, opened recently by Blair with much trumpeting, is in doubt. The running costs of the £32 million complex at the Ford Dagenham site do not add up and the future of 600 students is now in the balance. The centre is funded by Ford, the London Development Agency, a host of higher and further education institutions and various regeneration quangos. The concept of an engineering institute providing skills training from the most elementary level to the most sophisticated is exemplary, but the maths skills required to sort out the day to day running costs seem to be beyond ministers, fund holders and Ford.