Rover’s Birmingham plant – which faced closure only a year ago – has received a further boost with the imminent start-up of a night shift to produce the revamped Rover 200.
The shift will be staffed by 300 workers from the company’s Oxford plant who were assigned from Birmingham earlier this year to ramp-up production of the new Rover 75 during its launch phase.
The new shift at Birmingham – which has dropped its Longbridge name – is expected to start in mid-September and to run for at least a month. Stocks of the Rover 200 are being built up in preparation for its relaunch at the London Motor Show in October, which the company hopes will reverse flagging sales of the model.
Rover said the ability to switch workers between plants was a direct result of the flexible working deal struck with the unions last December. `We must be unique in car manufacturing in this country in being able to fine-tune production in this way,’ a spokesman for the company said.
In a move mirroring the employment practices of its BMW parent in Germany, the 300 workers will be replaced by agency staff. `In Germany, up to 10% of BMW’s workforce at any one time are agency staff,’ the spokesman said.
The company expects Rover Oxford to `significantly beat’ its initial 1999 production target for the 75 of 40,000 vehicles. The plant, which was commissioned in May, has already produced 20,000 vehicles and is now running at a rate of around 2,200 per week. It is expected to exceed its target of 2,800 vehicles per week before the end of the year.
The Birmingham plant has also boosted productivity over the past nine months from 30 to 47 units per worker per year. `The target is to reach 50 units by the year end,’ the spokesman added. This would place it in the top 20 in Europe – 10 places higher than in 1998.
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