From Our Correspondent Birmingham
Mr Derek Robinson, the British Leyland shop steward convener who was dismissed, has been refused leave to make a claim for unfair dismissal.
An industrial tribunal at Birmingham ruled yesterday that he did not have a good reason for failing to put in a claim within the statutory three months’ time limit. Mr Richard Smith, the tribunal chairman, said that the two tribunal members thought Mr Robinson’s reasons for delaying his application were spurious.
“I myself would use the word humbug”, he said. Mr Robinson was dismissed last November for distributing leaflets attacking Sir Michael Edwardes’s plans to save BL after the employees had voted in favour of them. Dr John Brookes, Mr Robinson’s family practitioner, told the tribunal yesterday that, after Mr Robinson’s dismissal he suffered a serious psychiatric disorder and had a nervous breakdown. The symptoms included amnesia, insomnia, voices in the ears and loss of appetite. The doctor said that Mr Robinson was a man whose beliefs were based on “the euphoria of the true believer “.
He said that at the relevant times Mr Robinson was not able to make proper decisions about his future and that if his present treatment was withdrawn he could become ill again.
Dr Brookes agreed that Mr Robinson had attended meetings, spoken to the press and appeared on television but, he said: “I saw him on television and he did not seem to me like a man who was in charge of his own affairs. He did not seem to realize that the thing was becoming a farce.”
Mr Smith, giving the tribunal’s decision, said that the real reason why Mr Robinson had not put in an application was because he did not want to take advantage of the Act of Parliament. He thought he was strong enough and powerful enough to look after himself. That was what lay behind Dr Brookes’s medical evidence. He said the doctor had referred to amnesia as a reason why Mr Robinson had not put in his claim, but it was significant that at no time did Mr Robinson say he had forgotten.
He said a great deal had been said about pressure from the media, and the tribunal accepted that Mr Robinson and his wife had been besieged by reporters. After the hearing Mr Robinson said he was unhappy about the result and would take legal advice on whether he could appeal. Mr John Bowden, his solicitor, said that one course of action to be considered was a claim for negligence against Mr Robinson’s union, the Amalgamated- Union of Engineering Workers.