Birmingham Post Comment: This Wages Row Is about the Future of Lode Lane

Article excerpt

Investment of pounds 200 million is going into Land Rover's Lode Lane plant, which will see the end of a dark and gloomy production area still using out-dated equipment which is putting it outside modern production methods used in the global automotive industry.

But the Ford people in Detroit responsible for the investment will be concerned with the outcome of the ballot on pay and conditions announced yesterday among the 7,000 union members at Lode Lane - who rejected a 6.5 per cent deal over two years because it did not bring them into line with their colleagues at Jaguar.

The unions, through Dave Osborne of the Transport and General Workers Union, have already said they do not want a damaging confrontation with the company and the management may see that as an olive branch.

But it is not local management at Solihull that decides what constitutes an olive branch - it is the Ford executives in Europe and Detroit who run the show. And they do not look at olive branches but at bottom lines. Ford has plans for Lode Lane to be a builder of premium priced four-wheel drive vehicles and when it is putting money up to make that a reality it wants something back in return, not industrial upheaval.

Bob Dover, who was chairman and chief executive of Land Rover and Jaguar before his recent departure, struggled through nine months of talks and two ballots to improve production effectiveness. …