Archive : Sir Don visits the car makers

From David Leigh, Cowley, Oxford

Sir Don Ryder, notoriously early riser and the man entrusted by the Government with an analysis of the financial trouble at British Leyland drove to the Cowley motor plant at Oxford early yesterday morning. His visit was not a suitable occasion for publicity, British Leyland said, and forbade journalists to enter the factories. Sir Don, the former chairman of the paper and publishing group, Reed International, was making his first practical acquaintance with the car industry.

“I am coming on my own”, he said.

“Other members of my team are visiting other plants. One can’t have an exercise like this without seeing the physical side of it: I must get the whole feeling of the company.”

Before driving back to London he spent nine hours meeting departmental managers and senior shop stewards, and “walking the plants”. The vast body and assembly works straddle the Cowley by-pass, employ 12000 people, and have some of the worst labour conflicts and lowest profitability record of any unit within British Leyland. As the Government’s industrial adviser, Sir Don has to prepare a report on the company, which is being supported by the Government.

In the words of British Leyland’s finance director: “Sir Don’s review team and the Government will he forced to base any decision on the cold hard facts of commercial credibility.”

As Sir Don was beinig conducted on his tour, Cowley’s present strike was taking its course a mile down tile road. In the Cowlev Workers Social Club, 250 engine tuners decided to continue their week long strike at least until Monday.

Keith Adams

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