BY Clifford Webb
A delegate meeting of more than 400 British Levland shop stewards and national union officials yesterday approved the new management’s proposals for implementing the Ryder Committee’s recommendations on worker participation. The Ryder Report emphasized that effective worker participation was fundamental to the success of the reorganized motor group.
At a press conference following the stewards’ meeting in Birmingham, Mr Bob Wright, national official of the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers, described the development as “a decision of paramount importance to industrial relations throughout the country. This is the first major company to launch meaningful proposals for effective participation at all levels”, he stated.
Mr Wright pointed out that Leyland had proposed a radical change of approach by both management and organized labour. Matters normally regarded as the exclusive prerogative of management would now be settled by joint consultation. These included investment, new model and facility planning, sales and marketing plans and financial performance. He emphasized however, that the unions accepted the ultimate decision would remain with management.
However, Leyland agreed to present alternative courses of action whenever they were available and to modify them in the light of discussions at the joint bodies. Yesterday’s meeting decided that manual and staff unions in British Leyland Cars and British Leyland Truck and Bus should be asked to submit by August 20, names for membership of two ad hoc working parties. These 60-strong working parties, on which there will be equal representation by management, will then decide the constitution and methods of electing members to a three tier system of joint bodies.
The lowest level will be at each plant. These plant committees will in turn elect representatives to area committees and they will elect representatives to a group management council. Yesterday’s “breakthrough” was surprising in view of the suspicions voiced by many shop stewards. It follows a meeting at Hastings on June 23 between Mr Alex Park, managing director of Leyland, and national union officials. At the conclusion, Mr Park set out company proposals for “industrial democracy”, and it was these proposals which yesterday’s meeting approved with an overwhelming vote.
Mr Wright said he could see no effective obstacles to rapid progress on the proposals and thought the joint bodies would be in operation by the late autumn. But just in case they do not match up to the union’s expectation they have left themselves an escape route. The whole system will be reviewed at the end of one year.
Strikers to meet: Hopes for an end to a six-week-old pay dispute, which has made nearly 17,000 Leyland car workers idle and is costing daily production losses of more than £2m worth of cars, hang on a mass meeting today of the 800 men on strike at Hemel Hempstead, one of the company’s key component plants. When the strikers met a week ago there was a majority of only seven votes for continuing the stoppage. The company hopes that today the vote may swing the other way, although the deadlock over the pay issue remains.