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ROVER..ONE YEAR ON

13 April 2006

Wrecked cars left to rot as the production lines stand silent..workers still trying to rebuild their lives.. this is

By Nick Webster

FRAYED flags still flutter in the breeze, advertising a household name which reached the end of the production line.

Behind high fences, CCTV cameras focus on derelict vehicles and the empty redbrick factories that helped contribute to 99 years of British car-making history.

Like the dinosaur some say it had become, all that's now left of MG Rover at Longbridge, Birmingham, are the bones of the massive operation.

A year ago this week its 6,000 workers were made redundant after a joint venture deal with Shanghai Automotive fell through. MG Rover went into administration and the heart of the community was silenced.

As well as the Rover workers, it's estimated that another 3,000 jobs were lost as a result - with devastating effects.

Tales of desperate debt, marriage break-ups, house repossessions, suicides, domestic violence, alcoholism and depression haunt the town.

Most tragic of all, this week, while other former Rover workers reflect on lost livelihoods and uncertain futures, Gerry and Pat Bailey will be erecting a headstone on the grave of their youngest son.

Desperately worried about finding new work, Carl Bailey, a former logistics planner at Rover, collapsed and died on the driveway of his parents' home on his way to a job interview 100 miles away in Southampton.

Doctors gave 28-year-old Carl's cause of death as cardiomyopathy - heart disease - which can remain hidden until triggered by stress.

The pain is still raw for his parents. "Carl was very stressed," says his father, Pat. "He'd never been out of work before and he loved it at Rover. When he lost his job, he was devastated. He began to get very snappy and worried all the time."

Heartbroken Gerry finds it very hard to even visit Carl's grave. "I don't want to leave him there. I feel cheated, not only of him but of grandchildren from him.

"He'll have no tomorrows. He was very sensitive and thoughtful. I miss him every day, every hour. We're still waiting for him to walk through the door."

Carl spent 12 years at Rover, where the average length of service was 15 years and jobs were believed to be for life.

The MG Rover Task Force - led in the main by local politicians and business leaders - says more than 4,000 staff are now back at work. But that is disputed by Liz Hanks and Gemma Cartwright, of the Rover Community Action Trust.

"There are more out of work than people think," says mum-oftwo Liz. "A lot are on training courses which qualify as 'work'.

"And it has been a real shock for those who have got jobs, because most are earning much less than at Rover. Some have gone back for just £5 an hour."

Just after her 39-year-old husband Phil's redundancy letter came through the post, he was taken to hospital with a suspected heart attack.

Phil, who worked for Rover for 15 years, suffered a dissected aorta. "We asked if it was brought on by stress and the doctors wouldn't give an answer," says Liz. "But two days after Rover shut, he was in hospital.

"We've heard of people who've committed suicide over the stress of losing their jobs. One man phoned up the trust and threatened suicide. He and his wife had just had a baby, he was crying and thought he'd lose his house.

"Many others have called about debt - mortgages, car loans, credit cards." Most of the redundant workers had mortgage protection insurance, covering their interest payments for the past year.

Now, with either no job or a dramatic drop in income, and fears that MG Rover pensions may be worthless, they face selling up. ONE-time quality engineer

Arnold Tweed, 48, is dreading having to sell. But after a desperate 12 months, when the father-of-two contemplated suicide and his marriage hit the rocks, Arnold has no choice.

"It has been horrible and affected every part of our lives. I've been so depressed, there were times when I thought about suicide. I just wanted to end it.

"I went from being outgoing and happy to being introverted and bitter. I also put on two stone from just sitting around.

"I know lots of others in a similar boat, for 12 months they've been unable to find work because they were at Rover... and Rover is synonymous with bad quality."

Gemma's husband Andy worked in the paint shop for 15 years. He has made 140 job applications but only received two replies, both knock-backs. Instead, the 42-year-old is retraining as a youth worker at Birmingham University.

But it is a three-year course and until it's completed he is only allowed to work 12 hours a week. So the family - who didn't have mortgage protection insurance - are relying on 29-year-old Gemma's wage as a midwifery assistant.

"It has been a huge blow financially," says the mother-of-four. "We've lost a wage and that's a nightmare. Yet Andrew is still classed as being back at work.

"Every time you go to bed you think, you've got through another day - and then you dread the postman coming the next morning with the new bills. We're thinking about selling up... we just have to get through the next two years somehow.

"More positively, the kids have never had so much time with Andrew. We have no money but we're closer. But, overall, it has been a horrendous year - and we think the next 12 months will be even worse.

"We've heard about seven house repossessions already and that's the tip of the iceberg.

"Ex-Rover workers have been embarrassed and ashamed about the situation. One marriage broke up because the man felt he'd let his family down and said he couldn't take it any more. And one bloke told his missus he was going out for some milk... and never came back.

"But it's not just the Rover workers who are suffering. There's been a knock-on effect with the local shops and businesses, childminders, cleaners, milkmen."

Businesses nearest the Longbridge site have borne the brunt. "It has been a really bad year," says Theresa Bond, who runs Cofton Post Office.

"Rover workers were our mainstay and the future for the shop is bleak because it's a ghost town now."

The post office was forced to lay off two staff, as was the nearby hairdresser.

"We used to be really busy every day," recalls Sandra Whitby, who runs The Salon. "But the past year has been dismal. There's nothing here any more. Everyone is so upset and saying how criminal it was."

But amid the gloom, there is the glimmer of hope. Although he's now earning less, Phil Hanks is back in the car business with BMW. And five days ago, Arnold began as a support worker with deaf and blind people for charity SENSE.

"It doesn't pay anything like what I once earned," says Arnold. "But at least it helps my self-esteem."

And former car dispatcher Kevin Kerr now works with people with learning difficulties. The 43-year-old is one of seven ex-Rover employees taken on by healthcare provider Castlebeck, at Arden Vale Hospital, in the West Midlands.

Although he is £50 a week worse off, Kevin says he's a lot happier than he was at Longbridge. "I went from making cars to looking after people with learning difficulties - and wish I'd done it 20 years ago. I get a lot more job satisfaction because I'm making a difference to people's lives."

But for those finding such a switch beyond them, there is a slight chance that MG Rover could regenerate itself.

The firm was bought by Nanjing Auto, another Chinese car-maker, for £50million.

It currently employs 70 people at the site but is vowing to restart car-making in Birmingham, with a recruitment drive later this year for an initial 200 workers.

The firm's spokesman says it is keen to take on ex-Rover workers. But Nanjing has a getout clause allowing it to walk away and Gemma Cartwright worries that stories of a "new dawn" at Rover are giving false hope to former workers.

"It's a year on from the redundancies," says Gemma. "Yet a lot of people still haven't come round to the idea that they're not just going to walk back into Rover."

It remains to be seen whether Longbridge's centenary year will bring a return to car-making or simply more heartache for the town's workforce.

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Rover is an A1 example of what has happend to the entire UK automotive industry

Mismanagement so shockingly bad it would shame a 5 year old, dyslexic, down-syndrome, heroin-addict.

Cant blame this on anyone else I'm afraid.

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It was self-inflicted by their fathers behaving like muppets, meanwhile at Wolfsburg employees worked hard to re-establish VW and set the foundations for something lasting, from the canteen they could see into East Germany and were just glad to be on the right side of the fence, many of them were originally from there.

_693309_redrobbo300.jpg

The wider deindustrialisation of the Midlands scars the landscape, I have no idea what supports prices in the region.

Edited by BuyingBear

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I'm hearing some pretty sad stories from the Milton Keynes area since the Abbey was taken over. One sob story I heard was a person going from £26k down to £14k in an NHS call centre. Not surprisingly they are quite depressed (are the NHS call centres being axed?). And I thought it was a land of opportunity down sarf.

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It was self-inflicted by their fathers behaving like muppets, meanwhile at Wolfsburg employees worked hard to re-establish VW and set the foundations for something lasting, from the canteen they could see into East Germany and were just glad to be on the right side of the fence, many of them were originally from there.

_693309_redrobbo300.jpg

The wider deindustrialisation of the Midlands scars the landscape, I have no idea what supports prices in the region.

I am amazed that you could blame trade unionists from 30 odd years ago about the loss of jobs

today in this country due to the capitalist policies that they were fighting against.

The trade unions today have little influence and cannot be held responsible in any way

for the effects of globalisation today, in fact its because of weak labour influence that it is possible

to do this.

The reason the Peugeot factory is closing is the same as why the Rover plant closed, capital has been

moved to more profitable countries at the complete disregard of workers in this country.

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The reason the Peugeot factory is closing is the same as why the Rover plant closed, capital has been

moved to more profitable countries at the complete disregard of workers in this country.

And the biggest reasons why we're unprofitable are bloated government, low productivity and a huge (and incredibly inefficient and counter-productive) welfare state. Not to mention unaffordably high house prices.

The first three, at least, were all supported by the unions.

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And the biggest reasons why we're unprofitable are bloated government, low productivity and a huge (and incredibly inefficient and counter-productive) welfare state. Not to mention unaffordably high house prices.

The first three, at least, were all supported by the unions.

The only way we can compete with the likes of China, India and Eastern Europe is to go back to

Victorian times living and working conditions, back to before we had union and labour struggle.

Hardly progress, well not for big business they would probably think that is progress.

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I am amazed that you could blame trade unionists from 30 odd years ago about the loss of jobs

today in this country due to the capitalist policies that they were fighting against.

The trade unions today have little influence and cannot be held responsible in any way

for the effects of globalisation today

The actions of those clowns thirty years ago are utterly and directly responsible for what we see today, they set the company back, they took away time and opportunity that could never be recovered! Those lost years had a massive multiplier effect on the company as time went on, whilst Red Robbo & Co were making an ar$e of themselves and generally wasting time and resources the workers at VW, BMW and alike were busy designing and building new and better cars, and when they finished doing that they didn't rest on their laurels but went on and designed even better cars and built on their knowledge. They still progress forward to this very day based on those foundations. Meanwhile at BMC the only things that passed for innovation were square steering wheels and repackaging the same old tired car in a new shell.

However, despite all that, the competition is fierce and even well run companies like VW face challenges today, and just look at GM and Ford, in that context you can see what chance a wounded donkey like MG Rover had. Those leading the unions back in the day were utter utter fools, even the workforce themselves finally realised it and got rid of the leadership, if only they could have seen this to begin with. They took one of the biggest car plants in the world at the time and helped turn it into what is today :angry:

Edited by BuyingBear

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The actions of those clowns thirty years ago are utterly and directly responsible for what we see today, they set the company back, they took away time and opportunity that could never be recovered! Those lost years were had a massive multiplier effect on the company as years went on, whilst Red Robbo & Co were making an ar$e of themselves and generally wasting time and resources the workers at VW, BMW and alike were busy designing and building new and better cars, and when they finished doing that they didn't rest on their laurels but went on and designed even better cars and built on their knowledge. They still progress forward to this very day based on those foundations. Meanwhile at BMC the only things that passed for innovation were square steering wheels and repackaging the same old tired car in a new shell.

However, despite all that, the competition is fierce and even well run companies like VW face challenges today, and just look at GM and Ford, in that context you can see what chance a wounded donkey like MG Rover had. Those leading the unions back in the day were utter utter fools, even the workforce themselves finally realised that and got rid of the leadership, if only they could have seen this to begin with. :angry:

So what you are saying is that VW and BMW had better run unions?

NDL

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So what you are saying is that VW and BMW had better run unions?

You could put it like that, they weren't overtly political and antagonistic, and undoubtedly benefited from greater wisdom and intelligence than Red Robbo. Our unions came out with the daffodils.

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The actions of those clowns thirty years ago are utterly and directly responsible for what we see today, they set the company back, they took away time and opportunity that could never be recovered! Those lost years had a massive multiplier effect on the company as time went on, whilst Red Robbo & Co were making an ar$e of themselves and generally wasting time and resources the workers at VW, BMW and alike were busy designing and building new and better cars, and when they finished doing that they didn't rest on their laurels but went on and designed even better cars and built on their knowledge. They still progress forward to this very day based on those foundations. Meanwhile at BMC the only things that passed for innovation were square steering wheels and repackaging the same old tired car in a new shell.

However, despite all that, the competition is fierce and even well run companies like VW face challenges today, and just look at GM and Ford, in that context you can see what chance a wounded donkey like MG Rover had. Those leading the unions back in the day were utter utter fools, even the workforce themselves finally realised that and got rid of the leadership, if only they could have seen this to begin with. They took one of the biggest car plants in the world at the time and helped turn it into what is today :angry:

In the near future you will see companies like VW and BMW, not just car manufacturers but all things manufactured moved to places like China, India and Eastern Europe simply because it is cheaper to produce and bigger profits can be made. Regardless of what good boys they where in the past, workers will still lose these jobs. Thats unless the Governments can put in protectionist policies or the unions can somehow stop it, which I doubt.

Not just manufactured goods either because these countries wont be happy doing all the donkey work jobs,

they are already making inroads into the services that we think we will be living on.

This is all an inevitable consequence of capitalism predicted by Marx 80 years ago.

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In the near future you will see companies like VW and BMW, not just car manufacturers but all things manufactured moved to places like China, India and Eastern Europe simply because it is cheaper to produce and bigger profits can be made. Regardless of what good boys they where in the past, workers will still lose these jobs.

That's undoubedly true, VW already run joint-venture plants in Shanghai producing cars like the Passat for the domestic market, and as I pointed out in the Peugeot thread the VW Touareg and Porsche Cayenne is built at a new plant in Slovakia, and they've long had plants in Spain and Mexico.

There are huge cost pressures on wages for German workers, increased productivity will be an element in this, but this equally applies to the Honda, Toyota, Nissan and Jaguar works in the UK. VW and alike still benefit from the fact their cars are designed Germany, and they're obviously headquartered there.

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Woudl Rover's demise have anything to do with the utterly cr*p cars they were delivering to market? I'm with MarkG on this, the answer is not going back to Victorian times but being more productive, flexible and innovative than we are. This is something that the government should have addressed but has failed miserably to do so. Instead the British have been systematically conned into thinking that the government should and will be there to care for them and then conned into paying for the whole mess.

:blink:

On another note, I'm certain the policy makers know how much of a mess they are making, hence the printing presses going mad.

<_<

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I joined up with a guy years ago who had worked at Rover; the stories he told about the place were incredible. Suffice to say, with workers attitudes like those he talked about, no bloody wonder the place was always in trouble.

As for blaming the great British public for not buying the cars, as many workers did rather vocally at the time of the collapse, why the hell should we? We work very hard for our money in the UK, so why would you spend it on a below par, out of date product with horrendous resale values when you can go VM, BMW etc and get a better car that will hold its values?

As Bear said, the attitudes of the Union followers 30 years ago set the scene for the malaise that followed. It killed them in the end. Just what Red Robbo wanted.

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It was self-inflicted by their fathers behaving like muppets, meanwhile at Wolfsburg employees worked hard to re-establish VW and set the foundations for something lasting, from the canteen they could see into East Germany and were just glad to be on the right side of the fence, many of them were originally from there.

OK. Shocking management AND shocking unions.

The whole point about Rover was the Chinese basically conned them into selling the 25 and 75 for peanuts in exchange for the promise of a fat wad of cash to save the company. Of course the chinese simply said "Thanks for the 25 and 75 but no to bailing you out" waited till Rover tanked then bought the whole kit and kaboodle for the sum total of a packet of roasted peanuts and an old video of Friends. Damned clever these Chinese eh? And how damned stupid these British?

As to not blaming unions of 30 years ago for the problem we face today, have a look at all the car and bike manufacturers we used to have but went bankrupt under the weight of union selfish idiocy.

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I remember delivering brand new Leyland cars in the 70's to M&S management staff in the 70's. These cars were absolute rubbish. Sometimes overheating, crunchy gearboxes, interiors that would shame a Trabant. Quite often they had bare floors! No carpet, not even a rubber mat. Unbelievable.

When Austin introduced the Allegro, nicknamed "The All Aggro" it's main selling point was that it had a square steering wheel. Words fail me. I used to live near the Vanden Plas works in Kingsbury, North London. Vanden Plas were a specialist coach builder that produced upmarket versions of Jags and Daimlers. Usually the larger Daimler that became a common sight in funeral processions. They got hold of the Allegro and tarted it up by sticking a small grill on the front that resembled the Rolls Royce grill. Ugly as sin. Have a look at the bog standard Allegro Estate. The design team must have been on mind bending drugs!

http://www.austin-rover.co.uk/index.htm?ado67indexf.htm

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I accept these cars were crap, but that is down to design, and I dont understand how they could have got it so wrong, considering the level of engineering expertise we had in the country then, there was no excuse for it. Especialy when you look at the quality of the british bikes, they were built to last and are like works of art.

Just go look at the motorcycle museum in Birmingham, its amazing, there is nothing made for general use today of that quality.

It was bad management caused the decline of most british industry simple as that (although the unions

didnt help any).

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Especialy when you look at the quality of the british bikes, they were built to last and are like works of art.

Just go look at the motorcycle museum in Birmingham, its amazing, there is nothing made for general use today of that quality.

I'm sure the ones in the museum look nice!

The fact is they leaked oil, were unreliable, vibrated and wouldnt start when it was cold or wet. Sure they had character but in reality the only bikes they were better than were American bikes. German and Japanese bikes had the advantage of being faster, reliable, not leaking oil and would actually start on a cold wet morning.

But I agree about the bad management. Vincent for example was selling bikes as fast as they could make them but went bankrupt because they were losing money on each bike they sold. I dont suppose the old supply and demand thing occured to their mangement- if the demand exceeds supply, put up your price and make a profit! Stupid!

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Fudge, sorry mate but you are so wrong when you talk about British bikes. I have owned and ridden loads of them. From my BSA Bantam, BSA A10, three Triumph Bonnevilles and one Triumph Trident. The very fact that you viewed then in a museum says it all. As much as I love them, their design was mainly rooted in the pre war days. Even when Japanese machines started arriving in bulk during the 60's with overhead cams, electric start, multi cylindered engines that did not leak oil or vibrate, the British manufacturers did not get the message.

They may be works of art, a US 1969 Bonneville or a 1971 BSA Rocket Three are beautiful machines but would you trust them on a long journey? I would'nt. In July 1973 I bought a brand new Triumph T120R 650cc Bonneville. These were called Meriden Monsters or Friday night specials. Afer the petrol tank cracked, the clutch packed up, the swinging arm seized-no grease applied during manufacture! to oil leaks and various electrical problems, I sold the beast.

As for the unions.... When Meriden was blockaded in 1974 what happened to the part completed bikes and spare parts. Lots of it was sold off through the back door by the militants. Not much brotherly love there!

Todays Triumph's are a world away from the old style British bikes. They may have the same names and have a retro look but are modern, reliable and above all affordable bikes.

Forget Harley and the Japanese clones... Buy British!

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Fudge, sorry mate but you are so wrong when you talk about British bikes. I have owned and ridden loads of them. From my BSA Bantam, BSA A10, three Triumph Bonnevilles and one Triumph Trident. The very fact that you viewed then in a museum says it all. As much as I love them, their design was mainly rooted in the pre war days. Even when Japanese machines started arriving in bulk during the 60's with overhead cams, electric start, multi cylindered engines that did not leak oil or vibrate, the British manufacturers did not get the message.

They may be works of art, a US 1969 Bonneville or a 1971 BSA Rocket Three are beautiful machines but would you trust them on a long journey? I would'nt. In July 1973 I bought a brand new Triumph T120R 650cc Bonneville. These were called Meriden Monsters or Friday night specials. Afer the petrol tank cracked, the clutch packed up, the swinging arm seized-no grease applied during manufacture! to oil leaks and various electrical problems, I sold the beast.

As for the unions.... When Meriden was blockaded in 1974 what happened to the part completed bikes and spare parts. Lots of it was sold off through the back door by the militants. Not much brotherly love there!

Todays Triumph's are a world away from the old style British bikes. They may have the same names and have a retro look but are modern, reliable and above all affordable bikes.

Forget Harley and the Japanese clones... Buy British!

I have owned british and japanese bikes, the japanese bikes where an improvement because they

took all the work that went into the british bikes and took it a step further, which undoubtably would have happened to the british bikes had they not been sold down the river.

As the new Triumphs bikes today prove. I would get one if the wife would let me.

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It wasn’t just the over-powered unions that were to blame.

Investment is the only way to secure a future.

Post-war paradigm in business management promoted

Middle and upper managers (financial experts)

With no understanding of technical innovation.

True Engineers were ignored. No investment for the future.

Japanese were borrowing heavily to invest in the most modern production equipment.

The Japanese put their earnings back into the companies.

history_1968-1977.jpg

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