Year 2000 No. 2, January 11, 2000

EU Investigation Threatens Rover Deal

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Workers and Politics
EU Investigation Threatens Rover Deal

Message of Greetings from Workers’ Weekly Youth Group

Further Threat to Rover
Rover Faces £700m Loss

For Your Reference:
EU Treaty on Aids granted by States

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Workers and Politics:

EU Investigation Threatens Rover Deal

As expected, the European Commission has formally announced that it will be investigating the £152m state aid for Rover. It is reported that the investigation is expected to take six months. This amount of state aid is conditional on the injection of £1.7bn of investment by BMW.

The German company is once again casting doubt over the deal in order to pressurise the workers at the Longbridge plant in Birmingham. The multinational group is intent on squeezing the maximum profit from the workers at the car plant. The ambivalent nature of the deal also brings into question the role of the EU as a big power bloc in its attempts to run a vital sector in manufacturing, the motor industry, in Britain according to considerations which have nothing to do with the interests of the workers or the national economy but are set by the values of neo-liberalism and globalisation.

In the bargaining which originally secured the deal, the workers have continually been told that negotiations are the way forward and they should leave matters to the trade union representatives and the company. The trade union leadership has not only paid no attention to the voice of the workers in this situation, but have supported the Labour government in telling the workers to leave politics to the politicians. Workers have felt marginalised by this situation, especially as the negotiations have been conducted on the basis that "social partnership" is what works and a solution which benefits them and secures their jobs can be found by making Rover competitive.

The TGWU's national automotive officer, Tony Woodley, said that the delay caused by the EU investigation was unacceptable. "I sincerely hope that this can be done and dusted within three to four months," he said. "Anything longer would be not just unwelcome, but possibly damaging." Tony Woodley maintained that the British government should be more pro-active in its approach to the looming inquiry. He said that the political negotiations should include persuading Competition Commissioner Mr Mario Monti of the merits of the grant package. Tony Woodley points out: "Now it has been referred, every member state can have their say in our business. It's like inviting vampires into a blood bank."

Duncan Simpson, national officer of the AEEU (Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union), said: "The workforce is frustrated that the Commission seems to be holding up much-needed investment in Longbridge."

As far as the workers themselves are concerned, they refuse to be voiceless in the matter. One worker, a 51 year old on the assembly line, has highlighted the disillusionment of the capitalist coalition of employers and bourgeois politicians when he said that they were tired of bosses playing "politics with their jobs". He continued by pointing out: "We all feel that our lives are in limbo at the moment and feel the permanence of our jobs is not in our own hands." He also emphasised that "something needs to be done, and soon".

The future of the 9,000 workforce is at stake and another 32-year-old worker with 12 years service said: "The atmosphere inside the plant is one of growing concern and things feel almost as bad as when the place was threatened with closure." He also made the serious point: "The take-over by BMW has done nothing for us, or our rights, and things are no better than they were 12 months ago."

One important issue is the threat, which has re-emerged, of the re-location and investment in Hungary instead of Longbridge. The question arises as to whether this is a genuine alternative or not, and the issue of how serious BMW is about switching investment to Hungary is to be included in the EU investigation. Another thing at stake is the calculation that there are at least another 40,000 jobs in the region's motor components sector that are dependent on investment in Longbridge.

In all of this it is clear that the workers themselves cannot remain on the outside of negotiations and politics concerning them. It is necessary that workers increase their ability find a way out of the attempts to ensure they are continually marginalised, and find ways of setting their own agenda. It is clear that they must challenge the situation whereby neither their interests as a collective nor the interests of the national economy are put as the central concerns, but only the aims of the international monopolies and financiers to force governments to put all the human and material resources of nations at their complete disposal.

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The Line of March to a New Society:

Message of Greetings from Workers’ Weekly Youth Group

Following is the contribution of Workers’ Weekly Youth Group to the rally launching the book The Line of March to a New Society on January 8.

We would like to give our message of greeting to the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) on this occasion, the launching of the Report to the 3rd Congress, "The Line of March to a New Society".

We are very proud participants in the work of RCPB(ML), for it is with its guidance and leadership that we find our direction. It gives us our strength to build the organisation with the goal of building a brighter future for ourselves, today’s youth.

It is only once we have done this, consolidated ourselves as the thinking, organised collective of youth, that we can envision a future where all of our needs are met to the highest level the society can provide.

The Party at its 3rd Congress said the youth need their collectives to forward their own agenda. It is here, now, that Workers’ Weekly Youth Group say to the Party, there is our organisation! Our work has begun, we are building our Preparatory Committee to organise the youth for the National Conference of Youth and Students.

This is the task we have taken up – to organise and arm the youth to be a part of the working class’s struggle out of the darkness of the past, the status quo, and into the dawn of a new society, a society where there is no exploitation of person by person.

Every day, as plain as the noses on our faces, the youth are screaming for change, whether it manifests itself in Seattle or London as anti-World Trade Organisation demonstrations, or whether it is the university students demanding their rights to a free education – the youth are active! We are political.

We will no longer be marginalised as a problem of society that needs to be dealt with, but as members of society, we place demands on society, for the rights of all to be recognised. And it is only armed with this, with the guidance of the Party, will all of these youth movements have content, this quality.

When a group of youth demonstrates against, for instance, the WTO, they will not be seen as a volatile gang of troublemakers, spoiling for a fight, but rather an organised force of youth armed with a plan – an ideology.

And you watch, once this happens, no riot squad, no backwardness, will survive the force of those armed collectively with an ideology – a way forward.

Long Live RCPB(ML)!

Forward into the 21st Century! For a Socialist Britain!

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Further Threat to Rover

The head of BMW’s global purchasing operations warned on December 18 that Rover may cut its expenditure on components bought from British suppliers by £1.75bn to £2bn. This is more than half of the company’s total spending in the UK and could result in the loss of thousands of jobs. The cut is also double the figure that BMW said earlier in 1999 would be necessary to help Rover recover. In October, Rover had warned that there was no "safety net" for British component suppliers to the company.

BMW also intends to cut the number of suppliers it uses in a bid to squeeze costs further. It would insist on prices coming down by a further 10 per cent in each of the next two years, head of global purchasing Wilhelm Becker said.

Wilhelm Becker, speaking at the Longbridge plant, said: "We are in a competitive global marketplace. Component supplies account for more than 60 per cent of the cost of a car."


Rover Faces £700m Loss

Financial analysts predicted on January 5 that the Rover Group is heading for losses of up to £700 million, its heaviest ever.

Parent company BMW Group warned that 1999 losses will exceed the £635 million incurred the previous year, but maintained its forecast that Rover would be profitable in 2003. The Group said that its Midlands Rover car operation was still a financial millstone, blaming unforeseen costs at the Longbridge plant. It said that redundancy packages were part of the problem, as the number of workers at Longbridge has been cut from 14,000 to 9,000. For the first time, BMW publicly alerted its German shareholders that the situation at Rover had worsened.

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For Your Reference:


(The Treaty of Amsterdam)



Chapter 1
Rules on Competition

Section 2

Aids granted by States

Article 87

1. Save as otherwise provided in this Treaty, any aid granted by a Member State or through State resources in any form whatsoever which distorts or threatens to distort competition by favouring certain undertakings or the production of certain goods shall, insofar as it affects trade between Member States, be incompatible with the common market.

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