By Our Industrial Staff
Lord Ryder, chairman of the National Enterprise Board, will meet British Leyland management and worker representatives today in an attempt to resolve the company’s labour relations problems. He will tell a 650-strong gathering in Birmingham that the Government is prepared to carry out its threat to stop putting public money into Leyland unless productivity improves greatly.
The urgency of today’s talks is underlined by the revelation that sales are now so poor that they are not sufficient to cover the weekly payroll. In its first six months, losses through unofficial strikes were as bad as in any six-month period since the old British Leyland company was formed seven years ago. More than 40,000 cars with a showroom value of £90m were lost, and about 25,000 cars cannot be released to dealers because they are being held at the factory by poor rectification performance and parts short- ages.
As a result dealers are extremely short of stocks and reliable sources suggest that the company needs 35,000 cars to bring its stocks up to normal levels for this time of the year. Starved of sales, Leyland’s share of the home market has collapsed from a record 40 per cent in September to an average 24 per cent for October and November. This has caused a cash flow crisis which is being overcome only by heavy drawings from the Â£200m already injected by the Government.
Mr Derek Whittaker, managing director of Leyland Cars, will be accompanied by Mr Bill Davis, manufacturing director, Mr Colin Daniel, finance director; Mr Geoffrey Whalen, personnel and industrial relations director; Mr Keith Hopkins sales and marketing director, and about 90 line chiefs and plant managers at the meeting. Full production was resumed at British Leyland’s Austin- Morris plants at Cowley, Oxford, and Longbridge, Birmingham, yesterday.