Keep Away Red Robbo
By Terence Stringer and Rob Chaytor
British Leyland are to pay Derek Robinson , the sacked Communist shop steward , £ 90 a week to stay at home. That was the deal they clinched with his Engineering Union yesterday to avoid a paralysing strike.
Leyland boss Sir Michael Edwardes, who was at the top secret meeting, warned that if the protest stoppages continued the giant car firm would soon shut down . But the pact raised a storm with the Transport Union which had already made the dispute official.
Under the agreement , Red Robbo will remain sacked while three members of his union conduct an inquiry.
General Secretary Terry Duffy said: “If we find that Mr Robinson was unfairly dismissed we will launch an official dispute. In the meantime, I hope there is a full return to work.”
A British Leyland spokesman commented: “Although he is being paid , Mr Robinson is dismissed and remains dismissed. He will not be allowed onto our property during the inquiry.”
The spokesman also made it plain that the company would not be bound by the outcome of the inquiry. Transport Union leaders were angry at being left in the lurch by the right-wing executive of the Engineering Union. John Barker the Transport Union’s Birmingham district secretary , said : ” We deplore their action . Our people and they represent 70 per cent of the workforce —remain on official strike until my committee meets tomorrow.”
Jack Adams, one of Robbo’s fellow shop stewards at Longbridge , said: “Derek has been badly let down by his own union.”‘
But thousands of Longbridge workers, who had defied the unofficial strike call , cheered the news. One of them said : ” We don’t want him back. He is a born wrecker”
And what of Robbo himself? He said : ” I am bitterly disappointed at my executive refusing to defend basic union rights.”