Marconi lifts Rover gloom with 2,000 jobs

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The Independent Online

Gloom over impending redundancies at Rover lifted yesterday after it emerged that Marconi plans to create up to 2,000 new jobs in the West Midlands. The communications group is expected to unveil plans next week for a major investment in a new site making products for use in the internet and new technology sectors.

Gloom over impending redundancies at Rover lifted yesterday after it emerged that Marconi plans to create up to 2,000 new jobs in the West Midlands. The communications group is expected to unveil plans next week for a major investment in a new site making products for use in the internet and new technology sectors.

Marconi will announce it is developing a new factory in Ansty, near Coventry, to produce internet routers and switches. It is thought this will lead to the creation of between 1,000 and 2,000 jobs - about the number expected to go at Rover.

A spokesman for Marconi said: "We are rapidly expanding our business. We are in a growth market, and therefore we are looking to expand our premises worldwide. We have a large communications division in Coventry and we are examining the possibilities for expanding the area."

Marconi has a major presence in the West Midlands, but since its forerunner GEC sold its traditional defence businesses to focus on IT and communications, business has expanded beyond its current capacity.

One industry expert said there was an irony in New Economy jobs arriving in the area at the same time that the automotive industry was shedding labour. "OK, Rover has lost some jobs, but these new jobs are of a different quality. One might that say that Rover was 'old economy' and that these are jobs with a future," he said.

The trade unions, which have campaigned for help for the area since the news broke that BMW was selling Rover, gave the news a warm welcome

An official of the Manufacturing Science and Finance union said: "This is great news for manufacturing and for the West Midlands, especially after the dark days of the Rover crisis."

Sir Ken Jackson, general secretary of the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union, said: "This is fantastic news, and is a massive vote of confidence in the West Midlands. I am delighted that Marconi is creating so many highly skilled jobs."

Marconi already employs 16,000 workers in the UK, and the expansion will centre on production of internet switches.

The announcement about the Ansty plant could come as early as Monday, and will be made jointly with the Department of Trade and Industry.

Last night, a spokesman for the DTI said celebrations over the news may be premature. "The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Stephen Byers, has been speaking to Lord Simpson, chairman of Marconi, and Mike Parton, chief executive officer, over the last month. Mr Byers will be speaking to Lord Simpson. No agreement has yet been finalised."

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