Archive : Red Derek’s fury

By Peter Hitchens and David Jack

TROUBLE-TORN British Leyland was last night tottering on the brink of complete shutdown as it felt the full fury of the shopfloor over the sacking of Red Derek. By last night more than 30,000 workers were on strike. The angry shopfloor backlash paralysed production at three of the car giant’s biggest plants.

There could be worse to come today. Union leaders and senior shop stewards called on the remainder of the 90,000 Leyland car workers to join them in the battle. There are 31 other Leyland plants. The unions said they will settle for nothing less than the ” immediate and unconditional reinstatement ” of Communist shop steward Derek Robinson.

Engineers’ president Mr Terry Duffy said : “We abhor and detest any form of victimisation, whether it be Derek Robinson or anyone else.”

His executive demanded reinstatement without issuing any threats. But Leyland’s stewards also want disciplinary warnings issued against Mr Robinson’s rebel colleagues , Longbridge, Birmingham, works committee chairman Mr Jack Adams and Mr Mick Clarke, from the nearby Rover plant , withdrawn. They also want all unions to declare the Longbridge dispute official.

As the fury mounted, the man without a job at the centre of the storm, said defiantly : ” This is one dispute we have to win. We shall, fight to the bitter end.”

Yesterday’s catalogue of chaos added up this way ; Longbridge: 18,000 idle. All Mini and Allegro production halted; Jaguar, Coventry : 8,000 on strike. All Jaguar and Daimler work stopped, but workforce expected back after 24-hour stoppage; Triumph, Coventry: 8,000 walked out after mass meeting. Production stopped.

Marina, Cowley: Work on Marina range at Austin-Morris assembly plant expected to stop after nightshift because of engine shortage.

The question now is : Did Sir Michael Edwardes and his management underestimate the shopfloor power of 52- year-old Mr Robinson, works convener at Longbridge?

He was sacked for opposing the Edwardes blueprint for survival, even though the workforce has voted approval to the company’s streamlining plan. Mr Robinson said : ” I shall never be intimidated by the likes of Edwardes, nor will I be frightened off by the sack. This is one dispute I intend to win. There will be no return to work at Longbridge until I am unconditionally reinstated.”

He did not believe he had been singled out by the company because of his political views. ” It is no no secret I am a Communist. Everyone knows it, including the company. I have never hid it.”

A company spokesman said : “There is no question of reinstatement.”

Moves were afoot to set up talks today without, pre-conditions.

Keith Adams

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