Letters Page of The Times
From Mr D. R. G. Andrews and Mr R. Horrocks.
The comments about BL in the September 19 issue (Finance and Industry) perpetuated some of the outdated misconceptions about the company which in fairness to employees and all they have achieved, we must refute. The view that, like the newspaper industry, motor manufacturing in Britain is characterised by “grossly overmanned activities burdened by restrictive union practices and locked in outdated plants” is wrong, certainly as far as BL is concerned on all three counts.
- Overmanning in BL was successfully but painfully dealt with mainly during the period between 1979 and 1982 when the number of employees fell by 63,500. Currently BL’s workforce stands at 80,000, exactly half the number employed in 1979.
- Restrictive practices were swept away in 1980 in a far-reaching and pioneering agreement for manufacturing industry which was accepted by employees as essential if new investment in facilities and model programmes were to be made and justified.
- Some 20 outdated factories have indeed been closed since 1979 and new facilities at Longbridge and Leyland have been built. Those which remain have been extensively re-equipped with advanced design, engineering and manufacturing facilities.
The sum total of these advances has been to more than double efficiency and productivity over the past five years. The Metro factory at Longbridge has been judged by an independent source as the most productive in Europe.
Losses among European volume motor manufacturers are currently running at around £1,000 million a year. This, we suggest is the background against which BL’s performance should judged.
Land Rover, Leyland
R. Horrocks, BL plc
106 Oxford Road
September 20th 1985