The 195,000 people who work for British Leyland were warned yesterday by Sir Donald Stokes, chief executive of the group, that strikes would strangle the car industry and open up the market to a flood of foreign competition.
In a personal message in the house newspaper of the Pressed Steel Fisher division of British Leyland, Sir Donald wrote that if they maintained the quality of their products and the continuity of their output, they would build up a prosperous British industry ; but if they failed through poor quality or through dislocation of supplies, then they were going to do themselves irretrievable harm. The strangulation of the British car industry would be similar to, but worse than, the way in which the Lancashire cotton industry was destroyed by a flood of foreign imports.
Sir Donald also stated: ‘Since the official formation of British Leyland there has not been one single day when we have not been affected by a strike or labour dispute of some kind or another. Not all these troubles have been in our factories – in fact, our own record is rather better, because out of some 116 disputes only 17 were within our own organisation; the others were due to outside suppliers or services, but nevertheless they have affected our ability to supply cars or truck s to our customers.
‘I am sure everybody will agree that this is an intolerable situation, and it is impossible to run any business on this basis, and certainly impossible to go out and sell in world markets if you do not know whether you are going to be able to deliver the goods you offer at the price you quote for them at the time of negotiating the deal.’
He ended: ‘You may think British Leyland is a big company, but may I remind you it is only one tenth the size of General Motors. We are David fighting Goliath, and unless we accept this fact and all fight together against the competition, and not for it, then the outlook for all of us will be pretty cloudy.’
AUSTIN MORRIS NEWS
Two hundred piece workers who assemble Morris Minors at the Morris Motors Factory, at Cowley are stopping work for 15 minutes in every hour. Their protest, they say, is against continuous lay-offs due to shortages of axles from outside plants.