Rover's fate will be known in days

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The Independent Online

Twenty thousand Rover workers in Birmingham will know by Wednesday whether the Phoenix bid to save their jobs at the ailing Longbridge plant has been successful.

Members of the Phoenix consortium were holding further talks yesterday with officials from BMW, the German owners of Rover, who have travelled to the Midlands to decide the plant's fate.

BMW has warned it will have no alternative but to close Rover if a sale cannot be agreed by the end of the month.

Last night sources close to Phoenix said the group is expecting a decision by the middle of this week. Yesterday Rover workers reported increasing optimism about their future to the annual conference of the Manufacturing Science and Finance Union.

Delegates urged the Government to protect British manufacturing jobs and called on ministers to take a pro-active role to safeguard employment at Longbridge and other firms facing cuts, including Ford.

The MSF conference wants tightening of social legislation in the UK to the same levels as in other European countries to help avoid another Rover crisis. The general secretary Roger Lyons said: "It is scandalous that workers in Bavaria have greater rights than those in Birmingham."

Rover placed full-page adverts in national newspapers yesterday for its cars following news that sales soared last month, leaving it second in the new car league behind Ford.

The Phoenix consortium is battling to convince BMW that it does have the necessary financial backing, despite a reported lack of co-operation from UK banks.

John Towers, the former Rover executive who heads Phoenix, said his team's detailed plans had been "well received" by the German company. The Germans say they are studying the bid.

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