PRESSURE MOUNTS AS MINI DECISION LOOMS

Negotiations on pay and conditions due to start at Rover next week could affect the long-term future of the car maker’s largest plant at Longbridge. Rover, which has brought the pay talks forward from November when the old agreement expires, wants a three-year deal before board level discussions at its parent BMW at the end […]

Negotiations on pay and conditions due to start at Rover next week could affect the long-term future of the car maker’s largest plant at Longbridge.

Rover, which has brought the pay talks forward from November when the old agreement expires, wants a three-year deal before board level discussions at its parent BMW at the end of July. These are on long-range model plans, principally on where to build the new Mini.

A spokesman for BMW said no strategic changes were imminent.

Negotiators representing Rover’s 39,000 UK workers are using the talks to seek investment commitments from Rover on `plant security, model investment and job security’. They want at least a 5% pay rise.

Although Rover invests £600m a year in the company, Tony Woodley, the T&G union’s national secretary for the motor industry, said he wanted a guarantee of £1bn investment at the Longbridge plant.

Woodley also wants `equal treatment to our counterparts in Germany’.

Ten German worker representatives sit on BMW’s supervisory board, one level below the car giant’s main board. It is here, Woodley argues, that they can influence investment decisions at an early stage. `We want a fair and equal opportunity to do the same on behalf of BMW’s British workforce,’ he said.

Although Rover’s chief executive sits on the supervisory board and the main board, UK workers are only represented on BMW’s European works council, a level below the supervisory board.

A spokesman for BMW said it was really a matter of European unionisation. Until laws across the European Union are compatible there were `legal ramifications’ to take into account, he said.

Fears that BMW may produce versions of the Solihull-built Range Rover and Discovery models at its US plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina, were also dismissed by BMW. A spokesman said `there will be no Rover production in BMW production facilities except in minor markets such as South Africa’.

* Rover’s Swindon pressings plant, which employs 4,500 people, has won a £50m investment for new equipment to enable it to make panels for the Freelander, the small Land Rover.

By Anthony Gould