By Clifford Webb.
A hard-hitting report blaming overmanning and ” lack of effort” by workers for Leyland Cars’ failure to compete with Japanese rivals will be put before the first meetings of the British company’s new union- management committees.
Another controversial finding knocks the widely held belief that Leyland plants are antiquated and its workers have far too few mechanical aids at their elbow.The report insists some Leyland plants compare quite favourably with Japanese rivals from an equipment standpoint. This is the opinion of six Leyland engineers, who spent a month earlier this year studying Japanese factories, including some belonging to the largest motor groups, Toyota and Nissan-Datsun.
Sources close-to Leyland Cars said yesterday that the report clearly identifies Leyland’s productivity shortcomings. Now the report is to go before the new plant level union management committees. In this way, Mr Derek Whittaker, managing director, is ensuring that the committees start life with plenty to get their teeth into. He is also throwing the question for better performance directly to the shop stewards. They have always defended poor productivity by their members vis-a-vis the Japanese by insisting that levels have been calculated using different and unfair yardsticks.
This will no longer hold water, because the Leyland investigating team was specifically instructed to use a common basis for its findings. It is also understood that Leyland Cars has delayed the placing of contracts for many millions of pounds’ worth of new machinery until these proposals have been discussed with the joint committees. This may surprise many industry observers who understood that the orders were already going out on the basis of recommendations accepted by the Ryder Committee.
Meanwhile British Leyland’s Rover car and Land-Rover operations are still disrupted by the effects of another dispute. Although the initial trouble at the Solihull plant, over the management’s introduction of industrial engineers, has now been settled after talks at the weekend, vehicle production, has only partly been restored. More than a thousand workers returned yesterday to the Rover assembly lines but another 1,400 who make Land-Rovers and Range Rovers were still idle. The management said it planned to recall them before the weekend.