The head of Britain's largest workers union Wednesday reiterated his support for Tata's acquisition of the luxury car brands Jaguar and Land Rover, but said he was disappointed by seller Ford's failure to retain a stake.
"If Jaguar and Land Rover had to be sold, then Tata was the best option," said Tony Woodley, joint general secretary of Unite, as Ford announced the sale of the two British iconic cars to Tata Motors Ltd.
The deal, announced Wednesday, already has the union's seal of approval, after it secured Tata's assurance that it will not shed jobs at the three Jaguar and Land Rover factories at Solihull, Castle Bromwich and Halewood and would continue to source Ford-made engine and components from its factories in Bridgend and Dagenham.
"We would have much preferred Ford to keep the companies in the family, so to speak, especially with Land Rover being so profitable," Woodley said.
"But with the commitments Tata have given to the future of Jaguar-Land Rover and the long-term supply agreements for components, especially engines from Bridgend and Dagenham, we're obviously pleased they are in the game."
However, Woodley added that there was disappointment that Ford had decided against taking a stake in the new future.
"That is a big disappointment," he said.
According to sources in Unite, union officials would have liked to see Ford take a minority stake, as it did while selling off the luxury car Aston Martin to two Kuwaiti investment companies last year. Ford retained a $77 million stake in Aston Martin.
This, the union officials feel, would have helped to "lock in" long-term commitments made as part of the agreement signed Wednesday between Tata and Ford.
The nervousness may be explained by the fact up to 40,000 jobs were at stake at a time of a global economic slowdown.
"On the positive side, Tata has not only given us a long-term commitment, but they are an industrial company as well," Unite's Andrew Dodgson told IANS.
"Tata recognise the iconic brand value of Jaguar-Land Rover - that they are British-engineered and British-made cars and so it is important to keep them in Britain," he added.
Ford acquired Jaguar for $2.5 bn in 1989 and Land Rover for $2.75 bn in 2000 but put them on the market last year after posting losses of $12.6 bn in 2006 - the heaviest in its 103-year history.
Tata was named by Ford as the preferred bidders in January as it beat off competition from fellow-Indian carmaker Mahindra and Mahindra and American buy-up specialist One Equity.
While the three Jaguar and Land Rover factories in Britain employ some 16,000 people, the number swells to between 30,000 and 40,000 when ancillaries are taken into account, according to Dodgson.
Indo-Asian News Service