By Clifford Webb Midlands Industrial Corresnondent
British Leyland Cars wants to cut its workforce of 116,000 by between 20,000 and 30,000 within the next six months, motor industry sources reported last night. To achieve such a reduction in a short time will almost certainly result in the biggest compulsory redundancy programme since the mid-1960s and will almost certainly meet with bitter union opposition.
The company has, however, given an assurance to union leaders gathered at the TUC conference at Blackpool that there will be no enforced redundancies until negotiations have taken place at plant level. Car production is believed to be down to only 12,000 a week, compared with an installed capacity of over 20,000. In addition the bitter price war now being waged for a bigger share of reduced markets has bitten deep into profit margins.
Notices signed by Mr Derek Whittaker, managing director of British Leyland Cars, went up in all plants yesterday.
They listed five reasons for the present approach to the unions for negotiations on manpower cuts:
- Total sales of cars in Britain fell by 600,000 between the financial years 1972-73 and 1974-75.
- In the same period manpower was reduced by only 15 per cent or about 21,000 jobs.
- British Leyland Cars were operating at a substantial loss.
- The money being provided by the Government was capital expenditure and was not intended to subsidize losses.
- Detailed action plans were nearly completed to increase sales at home and abroad, to do more work ” in plant ” and to review the labour force.
The notices said discussions on all aspects of manpower would start at factories towards the: end of this month and would be followed by meetings with national union officials. Mr Charles Skinner has been appointed British Leyland’s plant director at the Triumph complex at Speke, Liverpool. Mr Michael Kemp takes over as manufacturing manager of the operation at Speke.