By Clifford Webb
On the eve of a world tour of British Leyland plants and markets Lord Stokes, chairman, yesterday warned his 180,000 employees in Britain that continuing strikes were endangering the company’s recovery. Austin Morris 1800 and MGB production has been at a standstill for over a month because of a strike by engine assemblers at Longbridge.
In a wide ranging question and answer session, he was asked: “Do vou think British Leyland after the setback of a year ago, has now turned the corner and will go ahead rapidly?”
In reply, he said: “We can only get security of employment if we can satisfy customers that we can keep faith with them by delivering vehicles. Our model range is better than we have ever had in our history. We have a better sales organization. We are better prepared to meet the competitive challenge.”
They had gone to great lengths to introduce, wherever it was possible, new pay systems which were more fair and more conducive to steady employment. Answering a question based on workers’ fears that the growing number of British Leyland plants overseas would take work away from them, he said if anything they should increase employment at home. Most of the overseas plants took over a half of their material supplies from this country and the effect of an assembly plant was to more than double sales in a particular market. Why was British Leyland taking on many specialists from outside firms ? Lord Stokes said the total number taken on was infinitesimal compared witch the numbers employed. There were certain areas, however, were they were in need of new ideas and new talent.
“I do not think we should ever be afraid of taking a few people in from outside where they can contribute to the company. But I can state categorically that our main objective is to promote from within this organization.”
During his world tour Lord Stokes will finalize arrangements for an assembly plant in Bangkok. check progress being made on a new car shortly to be manufactured in Australia and launch the Morris Marina in Canada.