Archive : Leyland chief tells marchers – I’m not bluffing

By Peter Hitchens

Leyland protest marchers felt the full blast of their boss’s anger yesterday. They were like a crowd of King Canutes, Sir Michael. Edwardes told them. It was time they faced the fact that the axe must fall on large chunks of the company. It was time they realised that British motorists were turning more and more to foreign cars ‘because they are sick and tired of the squabbles within the UK motor industry.’

The words of chairman Edwardes were contained in an open letter handed to the marchers’ leaders at BL’s headquarters in London. Five hundred men from BL plants all over Britain had gone there to hand in their own letter, signed by Transport Union national secretary Mr Tod Sullivan. It claimed that the plan to axe 13 plants and 25,000 jobs, was ‘riddled with inconsistencies.’ Sir Michael expressed concern that the march had gone ahead at all in view of his meeting with the confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions last Friday. This had apparently paved the way for agreement on the BL’slimming’operation.

Addressing Mr Sullivan, he continued: ‘How do I explain to the board tomorrow the discrepancy between last Friday’s understanding and today’s Canute-like march? How can we persuade a Conservative government – any government to give us funds to secure our recovery when responsible union officials seem bent on thwarting our plans. I spelt out the conditions which could lead to BL’s recovery when you and other CSEU members met our team at Nuffield House for six hours last Friday. This is no bluff. It is a fact of life that the public and the BL Board and the Government have come to the end of the road with BL. We have no choice but to perform. I happen to believe that the bulk of our employees – your members -would sooner face the slimming exercise and give BL a chance of recovering than face the prospect of no further funds.’

After the marchers went on to a rally in Hyde Park, Mr Sullivan described the letter as’a nonsense.’ He said he stuck by the statement handed in at BL headquarters. This catalogued the inconsistencies’ in the slimming plan and said: ‘Any observer must draw the conclusion that we are talking of the end of BL in the next five years.’

Keith Adams

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