Archive : Austin Morris closures ‘are not a panic measure’

By Clifford Webb
Midland Industrial Correspondent

Mr. George Turnbull, managing director of British Leyland’s loss-making Austin Morris group, said yesterday that the decision to close two plants and make 5,000 workers redundant was not a panic measure forced upon the company by this year’s big fall in production. He said the moves announced at each of the plants affected earlier in the day had been planned for a long time and were the fifth phase of the reorganization programme which began with the formation of British Leyland two and a half years ago.

“At the same time there will be substantial savings, and we need substantial savings.” He refused to say how much would be saved. The first redundancy notices will go out on January 1st with the remainder spread over several months. Mr. Turnbull denied that these cutbacks were timed to influence present negotiations to replace piecework with measured day work at the group’s main car assembly plants.

The plants to be closed are Quinton Road. Coventry and Adderley Park West, Birmingham. Only 280 men are employed at Quinton Road which has been run down during the past three years. Employees there said yesterday they had been expecting a shut down at any time in the past year. Over 2,000 will lose their jobs at Adderley Park West, the old Morris Commercial works, which bears the brunt of the 3350 redundancies at the six Austin Morris factories in the Birmingham area. A further 70 will be made redundant at the Coventry engine plant, 700 at the Swindon bodv works and 600 at the three factories in the Oxford area.

Of the total of 5,000 Mr Turnbull said an immediate reduction of 850 management, junior staff and office workers was a direct cost saving measure.

He went on: “We have never disguised the fact that the most critical area, of the corporation’s activities is the Austin Morris group which is engaged in volume car production, the most highly cost competitive sector in the world motor industry. Success depends on the capacity to produce a limited range of’ vehicles in very high volume in large plants having the most modern equipment and with minimum disruption”.

Austin Morris had been severely handicapped by its inheritance of a large number of models produced in many cases on outdated equipment in small and unprofitable factories. Mr Turnbull announced that four low-volume models would go out of production in 1971. They are: the Morris Oxford. Morris Minor Traveller, the Austin-Morris 6-8 cwt. van and the Austin 3-litre. These cuts come as no surprise to the trade; most had been widely forecast for some months . Midland trade union officials last night called a meeting in Birmingham on Tuesday to hear reports from senior shop stewards at the plants affected.

By Geoffrey Whiteley

Car factories in the Birmingham area will bear the brunt of the 5,000 redundancies announced to shop floor workers yesterday by the British Leyland Motor Corporation as part of its plans for putting its Austin Morris division on a profit making basis. All except one of the group’s factories in Birmingham will feel some effect of the redundancy plan.

Two plants – at Adderley Park West in Birmingham and Quinton Road in Coventry – are to close under a pruning operation which, Mr George Turnbull, managing director of Austin Morris, said yesterday, had been caused almost entirely by changes in the group’s range of models. Over the next year the following models will be “phased out” : the Morris Oxford, the Morris Minor Traveller, the Austin 3-litre and the Austin-Morris 6cwt van. Production of the Morris Minor saloon is already being brought to a standstill. The group’s vehicle range is to be supplemented shortly by a new medium engined car, known at present by the code name ADO28.

The areas affected by the changes are :

BIRMINGHAM 3,350 jobs to go, including the closure of Adderley Part West, which employs about 2,000 on production of vans and Morris Travellers.

SWINDON: 700 redundancies at the former Pressed Steel Fisher plant.

OXFORD : 600 redundant at the group’s body and assembly factories.

COVENTRY : About 350 redundant because of the closure of the Quinton Road factory.

Mr Turnbull announced the redundancies to shop stewards in Birmingham, yesterday and said that the company “deeply regretted” the need to make some workers redundant but this was unavoidable in present circumstances if the remainder of the employees were to have a sound future. He added :

“The future of the Austin Morris group and its employees depends on our ability to ensure continuity of production, to reduce our operating costs, and return to a profitmaking situation,” he said.

Mr Turnbull said the situation in Austin Morris had been severely handicapped by the inheritance of a large number of models, “produced, in many cases, on outdated equipment in a number of small and unprofitable factories.”

The programme will include a reduction of about 850 management, junior staff , and non-production workers. All measures would be spread over 1971. The first redundancy notices would go out shortly after Christmas.

“Our objective continues to be to consolidate British Leyland’s position as one of world’s leading motor manufacturers,” he added.

“Success depends on the capability to produce a limited range of vehicles in very high volume large plants having the most modern equipment and with the minimum of disruption.”

British Leyland has concentrated on a big modernisation programme at its Cowley plant which hopes to begin producing the new car some time in 1971. No firm starting date can yet be arranged, because it depends on acceptance of a simplified pay system which should eliminate piece work and which has been rejected at shop-floor level. Mr Turnbull stressed yesterday that the management would not start production on piece working terms.

Keith Adams

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