By Robert Head
A Britain feverish with takeover talk and fear of redundancy is treated today to a soothing message from a tycoon. In his first yearly report, now being sent to 200,000 shareholders in the motor colossus, British Leyland, chairman Lord Stokes makes clear that he will not sacrifice the interests of his 188,000 workers in the quest for rapid rationalisation and bigger profits.
He says: “We still have a long way to go if we are to achieve all the economies and improvements in efficiency which themerger has made possible. We could have moved ahead more quickly . . . but we have gone out of our way to avoid large-scale redundancies.”
He adds: “In the long run it is right, as far as we can, to balance the interests of the employees and shareholders in this way.”
Lord Stokes goes on record as the first company boss to come out and tell shareholders that the workers must also be considered.
His attitude seems to differ from that of bosses who believe that they do the greatest good for the greatest number by wielding the pruning hooks through grossly over-manned factories after each multi-million pound takeover bid they make.
Perhaps the most famous is Mr Arnold Weinstock, head of GEC, whose takeover of AEI just over a year ago was swiftly followed by the controversial closure of AEI’s Woolwich factory in South London, and whose bid for English Electric has worried many workers in the industry.
In the delicate balance between the interests of workers and shareholders Lord Stokes evidently tips the scales one way and Mr Weinstock the other. From the shareholders’ point of view it is interesting to note that GEC shares have soared on the Stock Exchange by 70 per cent since it took over AEI .
British Leyland shares have risen by about 40 per cent, since its merger was completed in the spring of last year. Comparisons are difficult since the two companies are in different industries and face different sets of problems. Lord Stokes said at a lunch in London yesterday: “We didn’t join BMC and Leyland together to destroy it. We formed it to give our people a sense of permanent employment.”
PAY STRIKE HITS A CAR PLANT
Thirty car workers who struck over bonus payments yesterday made another 600 men idle at British Leyland’s plant at Longbridge, Birmingham. The strike brought production of Minis to a virtual standstill.