Unions in two-pronged bid to save thousands of motor industry jobs

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Unions yesterday urged BMW to delay its decision over the future of Rover and urged the Government to "pull its finger out" over Ford's Dagenham plant.

Representatives of British Rover workers are planning a last-ditch mission to BMW's Munich headquarters tomorrow to plead for more time to save thousands of jobs.

The German group is due to announce the sale of Rover to venture capitalists Alchemy on Friday unless unions can win a postponement of the deadline so that a rival consortium can draw up its bid.

The unions favour a takeover by Phoenix, a group led by John Towers a former Rover executive, which envisages 1,000 to 2,000 redundancies from the 9,000-strong workforce at Rover's Longbridge plant - less than half the total thought to be planned by Alchemy.

It is understood however that John Hemming, a Midlands businessman involved in the Phoenix bid, failed to extend the deadline in talks with BMW last Thursday.

Meanwhile the GMB general union welcomed the news that the Prime Minister Tony Blair held confidential meetings with Jac Nasser, the Ford chief executive, but made clear its exasperation with Stephen Byers, secretary of State at the Department of Trade and Industry.

Ford has announced a global review of its operations, and there are fears that Dagenham has been identified for closure in a restructuring plan due to be announced in May.

Bill Morris, general secretary of the TGWU, criticised BMW for its "indecent haste" in selling Rover to Alchemy. "Alchemy has had six weeks to work up their financial package. The Towers team should be given the same opportunity. If successful they will secure the jobs of thousands in the Midlands."

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