BL indicated to union leaders last night that at least 3,000 more jobs would have to be cut this year than were envisaged in Michael Edwardes’ recovery plan. The redundancies are expected to be spread over several plants rather than confined to one or two. Four factors cited by management
By Donald Macintyre Labour Reporter
British Leyland indicated to union leaders last night that about 3,000 more jobs would have to be cut this year than had been envisaged in the recovery plan set out by Sir Michael Edwardes. Mr Raymond Horrocks, managing director of BL Cars, confirmed at a meeting with the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions that the recovery programme put forward in September would have to be accelerated.
So far, 3000 of the 25,000 workers envisaged to go over the next two years have left and BL expects to slim its workers by a further 9,000 or so by the end of this year, with the rest leaving next year. Mr Horrocks cited as factors behind the acceleration: the strong value of the pound, which was affecting export sales; higher imports, which were affecting BL’s share of the United Kingdom market; the financial effect of last year’s national engineering dispute, and the continuing high cost of energy, which was affecting sales of BL’s bigger cars.
BL still expects to achieve the cuts in its work force through natural wastage and voluntary redundancy, although the recovery plan does not rule out compulsory redundancy if necessary.
BL, which last night was still trying to arrange an urgent meeting with union general secretaries in an attempt to solve the separate, though related, issue of the deadlock over pay, will detail the new redundancy plans to local officials and shop stewards during the next fortnight.
The layoffs affecting 15,000 employees and the short-time working by 7,000 workers are expected to end with a return to normal working at the end of this month, but union leaders expect that some of those involved will leave permanently in a matter of months after they return.
Pay negotiations have broken down after the rejection by a majority of three to two in a ballot of the labour force of a basic 5 per cent offer together with up to £15 extra for widespread changes in working practices which the unions are resisting. BL made it clear last night that it was fully committed to its new programme. Mr Horrocks did not attempt to reopen pay negotiations when he met the confederation, but he warned the unions that the deadlock was affecting business confidence.
BL’s market share of 16.75 per cent last month was an improvement on January’s all time low of 15 per cent. It now hopes for a figure of 20 per cent this month.