Monday, April 11, 2005

You're working for no one but me

It seems a car maker that isn't very good at making cars has borrowed some money from me so it can keep on making them anyway.

That's odd, because I don't remember saying it could.


At 2:58 pm, Blogger caryne said...

We own a Rover and it's a bloody good car....disproving your point that they are 'not very good at making cars''s the best car we've ever had.

But to be serious, whilst the government are only backing Rover because an election is near and many of the workers are living in marginal areas, surely it is very important that everyone does all that they can to keep these people in's not only their wages now that are at stake but their furture and their pensions. This 'I'm all right Jack, so bugger everyone else attitude' is the sort of thing I would expect from a Tory..not from someone I always felt was concerned for the plight of others.

At 3:19 pm, Blogger Laura Brown said...

Hi Caryne,

I understand that you're speaking out of concern for the workers. However, I honestly don't feel that having the government prop up failing companies is the right tactic. I grew up in an area where the coal industry has been heavily supported by the government for many years, and almost certainly would not have survived without it. The effect has been to stifle any attempts to come up with an alternative basis for the economy. It has caused continued dependency on an industry that WILL die eventually no matter how much money the government pumps into it. And while it has kept people in work (though not enough), it has actually made their working conditions worse. The tighter a stranglehold the coal companies have had over the economy, the easier it has been for them to smash unions and adopt appalling environmental practices.

I believe what the government CAN do to help the Rover workers is to provide financial support to them directly, instead of to their bosses; to help train them for other work; and most importantly, to ban age discrimination so that they will not be penalised for giving their first few decades to another industry.

While I'm glad you're happy with your Rover, part of their job has been to produce cars that a lot of people want to buy, and their sales figures show they aren't very good at that.

At 7:42 pm, Blogger Chris Brown said...

This is the nub of the matter for me: in fact we used to have a Rover too, back in the Honda days, and it was OK. It certainly isn't the fault of the people who out the cars together, who have certainly improved since the British Leyland horrors. It's the designs that are the problem, and it did cross my mind that if the Government were prepared to invest the amount of money necessary to actually develop a really good new model (like that 45 replacement) then there might be some possibility of a revival, although I think it may already be too late.

But what saddens me is that lending this money is at best a sticking-plaster for a man in front of a firing squad, and at worst a way to prolong the agony of the workers. The very fact that it's a loan adds to the company's huge mountain of debt - but if it were a grant, it's only going to pay the wages for a week, and then we'll be in exactly the same position. Remember that HMG offered a bigger amount than this last week, and even that wouldn't save the much-vaunted Chinese deal which, lest we forget, would mean sacking half the Longbridge workers and probably even more of the suppliers.
Sean's absolutely right to point out the incompetence of the Phoenix managers - but it was this same government that insisted on them taking over when BMW pulled out, for sentimental and electoral reasons. More to the point though, if the state continues to bail out Phoenix when they make cars people don't want (and much as we might like them, the fact is that they aren't selling enough to break even) then there's no incentive for them ever to make ones that people do want. What they'd have been better off doing is writing the workers a cheque for a thousand pounds each (taxpayers' money isn't just ours, it's theirs too) and letting go.

I'll certainly miss Rover for their heritage alone, but they've sold off the family silver (ie MINI and Land Rover) and they've had too many last chances already.


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