Archive : John Barber hits back

John Barber

Mr John Barber, managing director, whose job disappears in the restructuring when Mr Alex Park, Leyland’s financial director, takes, over the new role of chief executive, said last night that he was wholly out of sympathy with the holding company concept now being proposed for the motor giant.

“Quite simply,” he said, “there is a difference of opinion between myself and the Ryder team on how British Leyland should be run. I have worked towards and still believe in an integrated structure for a motor manufacturer. During the past 18 months, while I have been managing director, we have. made considerable progress towards achieving this. I do, not agree with the experiment now being proposed of a holding company for a variety of complicated reasons. As such there is no place for me here.”

He was unclear exactly when he would leave the company or whether he would participate in board decisions on what advice to give to shareholders. after the Government’s decision to accept Ryder’s recommendations.

Mr Harry Urwin, assistant general secretary of the TGWU and a member. of the National Enterprise Board, described the present machinery being used by BLMC as ” a disgrace to the British motor industry” and commented that far from being malingerers the workforce at British Leyland was, because of old-fashioned equipment, having to work harder than others.

Key role for shop stewards’ movement

The powerful British Leyland shop stewards’ movement will have the key role to play in the improved labour relations which the Government is demanding. Last night their leaders were delighted with the absence of mass redundancies but gave a mixed reception to the rest of the proposals.

Mr Eddie McGarry, joint chairman of the British Leyland combined shop stewards’ committee and convener at Triumph Coventry, said: “We would have preferred outright nationalization but we are delighted that the only reference to cuts in the labour force talks of more realistic manning levels. We cannot see any redundancies arising as a result of this because given an injection of capital of this magnitude to invest in new equipment we shall be able to gear ourselves to higher output ready for the expected improvement in world markets. I think you will find now that all the indecision about our future has been swept away, the trade unions will match up to whatever responsibility is laid at their door.”

His co-chairman, Mr Derek Robinson, convener at Longbridge, the group’s biggest car plant, said: “My reactions are rather mixed. Firstly I am delighted that they are not proposing wholesale redundancies. I welcome the Government’s general approach to take over British Leyland in this way and inject a lot of money over the next three years. We accept the implied philosophy that after three years the new British Leyland should be able to generate sufficient profits to provide for its own needs. The removal of the present top management, the reduction in central staff and the establishment of four separately run companies all looks very promising. But I am sure shop stewards will want to reserve judgment until we know who the new managers are. We told the Ryder committee that we would like to see these men appointed jointly by the Government and the unions. The proposed works committees fall well short of the degree of participation we asked Ryder for and I fear that they would not be strong enough to motivate workers.”

Mr Brian Mathers, the senior full-time official of the TGWU in the West Midlands, said:  “This massive injection of capital should at last give British Leyland a chance to become a major, force in the world’s motor industry. It will end the uncertainty and the insecurity that has prevailed for so long and undermined morale. I believe workers will respond to the conditions which require improved labour relations in return for staged capital investment. The fact that the new structure does not call for compulsory redundancy and closures should provide the right atmosphere for more co-operation between management and workers.”

Keith Adams

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