Union leaders recommend to BL workers that they accept the Edwardes plan in a secret ballot.
By Peter Hitchens
Leyland chief Sir Michael Edwardes scored a major victory last night in his bid to streamline the ailing car giant. A vital meeting of union leaders decided to back Sir Michael’s plan for staff cuts and factory closures. The unions are willing to back an immediate ballot of all Leyland’s 164,000 workers. They want the workforce to vote on two separate statements – one from shop stewards urging rejection, and one from the unions joint executive recommending a cautious acceptance.
And they will urge all their members to back acceptance. The surprise good news came last-night after a two-and-a-half hour meeting of the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions. Confederation president Ken Baker said : “The executive, because of the seriousness of the position, have made a decision to hold a ballot of our members and we would not disagree if that was a joint operation with the company.”
General secretary Mr Alex Ferry made things clearer, still; saying “What we’re recommending is acceptance of the Edwardes plan ”
Mr Baker said that if Sir Michael did not agree to their plan, they would go ahead with the ballot anyway. The decision followed the sternest warning yet that Leyland workers face a choice between survival and a drastic plan involving the closure of 13 plants and 25,000 redundancies. National Enterprise Board chairman SirLeslie Murphy had warned :
” British Leyland is nearer the precipice than it has ever been. If the workforce rejects the proposals the company is making then I do not see how British Leyland can survive in its present form.” .
Sir Leslie, whose backing is crucial to any further Government aid to Leyland, gave total support to Sir Michael’s plan.