Dipankar De Sarkar
London, Jan 7 Britain's biggest workers' union and key regional newspapers have launched a massive campaign to save beleaguered Indian-owned marques Jaguar and Land Rover (JLR) from collapsing in the credit crunch.
Campaigners have also taken their fight to the Internet, with a Save JLR page launched on Facebook and an e-petition put up on Prime Minister Gordon Brown's website.
Amid a serious downturn in the global auto industry, Unite, the union representing the British manufacturing sector, has urged Brown to match the cash that owners Tata have injected into JLR, the country's best-known luxury marques.
Simultaneously, some of the biggest newspapers in the Midlands and Merseyside manufacturing regions have launched a campaign in support of JLR, which was bought by Tata Motors last year for $2.3 billion.
JLR, which is responsible for tens of thousands of British jobs in its plants and ancillaries, has asked the government for a short-term loan on commercial terms. The campaign aims at pushing the JLR case.
"This was a crisis made in the City - not on Merseyside or in the Midlands. The blame lies with the greedy bankers and certainly not with the skilled, hard-working employees of Jaguar, Land Rover and Vauxhall," United General Secretary Tony Woodley said in a newspaper article.
He urged the government to support JLR financially.
"Ministers have rightly argued that the owners of Jaguar Land Rover - the Indian company Tata - should play its part and put serious money into the company. I am delighted that it is doing so.
"So now is the moment for Gordon Brown to be bold and give our car industry the sort of backing already offered to the financial services and construction sectors," Woodley said.
Unite's views were echoed by a clutch of powerful regional newspapers that launched a campaign this week to save jobs in the Midlands and Merseyside - important British manufacturing regions.
"Owner Tata is a successful international conglomerate, but no company has limitless cash flow," argued the Birmingham Post. "Without access to credit, JLR and others in the automotive industry will simply run out of the fuel they need to power their operations."
"A cash-strapped JLR would be forced to rein in its spending on research and development, and sit and wait for the recession to blow over. However long that may be, the company will inevitably fall years behind the developments of those international competitors who have already been helped by their governments."
The Birmingham Post campaign has been joined by its sister newspaper, the Birmingham Mail, and by several other titles, including the Coventry Telegraph, the Liverpool Echo, the Liverpool Daily Post and the Western Mail.
The newspapers have urged their readers to specifically target Finance Minister Alistair Darling, saying he must release between 500 million and 1 billion pounds to JLR.
"Owners Tata have already pumped in an estimated 600 million pounds of extra cash to help JLR stay in production. They are also in negotiations with the government over help, but none has yet been forthcoming," said the Liverpool Daily Post.
The newspapers have urged readers to sign an online petition at the Downing Street website www.tinyurl.com/no10jlr and to join a Facebook group, Save Jaguar Land Rover.