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'Nationalise Rover' call by candidate 

Ken Smith

 

Hundreds of millions of pounds of government money should be used to make Rover a public company, according to a Socialist councilor and parliamentary candidate.

Former Coventry MP Dave Nellist has called for the money that is likely to be made available to tackle the fall-out from a Rover collapse to be diverted.

He claims that it would be better used to take the beleaguered firm into public ownership, and thus save the thousands of jobs in the West Midlands that are under threat.

Cllr Nellist, will seek to commit Coventry City Council to the idea next Tuesday (April 19th) when the full council will meet to debate his motion calling for public ownership.

The motion submitted by Cllr Nellist also demands that trade unions be given access to the company books so they can see the true situation at Rover.

Cllr Nellist said today: "Tens of thousands of workers in our region face an uncertain future, as behind closed doors administrators (in reality, asset strippers) pick over the bones of what Phoenix have left of Rover.

"Five years ago when the BMW crisis threatened jobs at Longbridge we warned that no private sector solution would guarantee the jobs of all Rover workers and those in component suppliers, and called for BMW's assets in Britain to be taken back into public ownership.

"That should be done immediately - but no compensation should be paid to the Rover directors, the Phoenix Four, who all the way along seem to have protected and enriched themselves, unlike the thousands of workers who tragically were persuaded to put their trust in them and who now face redundancy and the insecurity of an increasingly low-wage economy.

"Rover is too small and underinvested in to be a long-term volume car manufacturer, that's why our motion calls for a plan to be drawn up, in conjunction with Rover workers themselves, for public investment under democratic public control to produce a new product range that will better address the real transport needs of the whole of society.

"Hundreds of millions of pounds of public money will be spent picking up the pieces of this industrial vandalism if the closure of Rover goes through.

"In 2000, 152 million was promised in regional aid, a similar amount would likely be involved again. Add to that the loss of tax and national insurance from perhaps 15-20,000 workers; the paying of benefits and the unquantifiable social costs ranging from unnecessary repossessions and evictions to the extra strain put on the health and welfare system.

"Rather than spend that money on the aftermath of the collapse of Rover, it would be far better to invest it in keeping the industry alive.

"But such huge public investment shouldn't be a subsidy to another private company's profits. Government intervention and public investment should be matched by public ownership and control. And by the involvement of Rovers workers themselves in the drawing up of a new plan of production to meet the transport needs of the whole of society.

"To those who say it can't be done, well I can vividly remember as a young apprentice sitting in a lecture room at the Rolls Royce Technical College in  Bristol in 1971 hearing how the then Tory Prime Minister, Edward Heath, had nationalised Rolls Royce to prevent the break up of the aero engine industry, in only 24 hours of parliamentary time!  If this New Labour Government were serious about saving jobs, it could be done again."

Cllr Nellist wants trades unions and the public to rise up in support of Longbridge.

"Five years ago, the threat of massive job cuts led to a huge demonstration in Birmingham.  We urgently need that same spirit of trade union action and community support literally in the days ahead to stop the vultures circling over Longbridge".


The text of the motion reads: "This Council: notes with dismay the level of job losses in the region's car industry in recent months including major redundancies or threatened redundancies at Jaguar, Peugeot and Rover, together with a number of smaller companies and those who are suppliers to those named; gives 100% support to those workers wishing to oppose redundancies and calls for the trade unions to develop an urgent regional and national campaign in support of manufacturing jobs; believes that the trades unions should be given immediate access to the books of Jaguar, Peugeot and Rover to see how subsidies, profits and internal transfers have affected the financial health of those businesses, and that with many thousands of jobs affected there should be no excuse of "business secrecy" hiding the facts from those most closely involved; demands an urgent investigation into the role of Rover's directors and their five-year control of the company, and an end to asset stripping or movement of production facilities without the agreement of all plants concerned; and resolves that since hundreds of millions of pounds of public money would have to come into this region to deal with the consequences of the collapse of Rover, that such public money should be invested now to retain Rover jobs, on condition that the ownership of Rover be now transferred back to the public sector and a plan drawn up, in conjunction with Rover workers themselves, for that public investment, under democratic public control, to produce a new product range that will better address the real transport needs of the whole of society."

 

April 2005

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