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MPs and unions in talks over Jaguar

Union leaders are meeting Jaguar executives over the planned ending of car assembly at Coventry’s Browns Lane plant and job cuts as MPs began questioning both sides in the dispute.

Members of the Trade and Industry Select Committee, due to talk to union leaders this week, plan a session with Jaguar directors on November 17.

A march and rally in Coventry on November 27 organised by the Transport and Workers Union and Amicus are designed to try to force Ford PAG to rethink Jaguar production reorganisation. West Midland Labour MPs have accused Ford of breaking a 1998 agreement that investment in Browns Lane would continue if employees met productivity and quality targets.

Tony Woodley, T&G general secretary, says: “MPs are keeping the pressure on Ford to maintain their commitment to the West Midlands Jaguar workforce. The MPs’ interventions are a vital step in the campaign to save Browns Lane and are raising important questions about the future of the region’s car-making base.”

Jaguar believes the 1998 agreement argument is academic because the change in the company’s fortunes is so dramatic that action is essential for its survival.

Jim Cunningham, the Coventry South Labour MP who triggered an adjournment debate in the Commons over the issue, says: “I am cautiously optimistic that the Select Committee can persuade Ford to reconsider. Intervention by the committee helped produce a rescue plan for Rover when BMW decided to get rid of it.”

In September, Ford announced proposals to shed 1,150 assembly jobs at Browns Lane, the symbolic home of Jaguar, and end production there of XJ and XK.

Around 425 jobs would be transferred to Jaguar’s modern Birmingham Castle Bromwich plant which already makes XJ/XK bodyshells, as well as assembling S-type models.

According to Jaguar, unions failed to respond for a fortnight to a request for talks, although all employees had been briefed at meetings on the need for action because of dwindling US sales.

Unions protest that Jaguar did not consult them before announcing the Browns Lane closure. Jaguar agrees, but says that was not essential under UK law.

“We’re glad we are talking to the unions but it is going to take a radical change in their position if we are to reconsider,” says a Jaguar spokesman. The company insists its action plan is essential to safeguard Jaguar’s future. It wants only two assembly plants and plans new products led by the all-aluminium XK sportscar in 2006.

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