Rover staff turn down production line jobs

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THE ROVER car group will be forced to take on more than 500 workers this spring after white- collar staff refused to switch to production lines.

So far just 60 employees from a range of departments such as administration and sales have come forward to fill 1,000 vacancies in manufacturing sections.

David Bower, group personnel director, said the company would not force staff to change jobs, but management was keen to use as many existing employees as possible. Mr Bower acknowledged he was embarking on a strategy virtually unheard of in British industry and was not surprised there was some resistance among salaried personnel. 'We simply wanted to use the skill and expertise of our existing employees. The challenge to management was to make it acceptable and worthwhile for people to switch,' he said.

Employees who were transferred would receive their existing salary for two years before changing to production workers' wages of an average pounds 256 a week. He said none of the 33,000 workers at Rover was considered to have a permanent job in any one area.

Extra workers are required at four plants - Cowley, Swindon, Longbridge and Solihull - because demand for Rover's products in Britain and Europe continues to expand. Demand for the Land-Rover range produced at Solihull had been particularly high.

Two years ago management and unions signed the so-called New Deal in which flexibility among employees was exchanged for job security. But the flexibility agreed did not extend to switching white- collar staff to production lines.

Changes at Rover had meant that some activities require fewer people, but the agreement dictated that personnel could not be made compulsorily redundant.

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