By Terry Pattinson
Thousands of British Leyland car jobs are to be axed in the next few months. This was clear last night after talks in Blackpool between management and unions. It is believed that as many as 20,000 jobs are at risk—most of them white-collar posts.
The redundancies will not be compulsory, but managing director Derek Whittaker made it clear that the company cannot stand its current disastrous losses. He confirmed forecasts that Leyland’s car sales in Britain slumped by 600,000 between 1972-73 and 1974-75—a drop of more than 30 per cent. But manpower fell by only 21,000— or 15 per cent.
Engineering Union executive officer Bob Wright said after the talks that the unions would continue to oppose compulsory job cuts. But he accepted that the 116,000 strong workforce will have to be drastically pruned if the big injection of taxpayers money was to save the firm. Mr Wright appealed to the public to buy British cars and force back imports of Japanese cars.
He said: “Every foreign car going down the road will mean the loss of a British worker’s job.” At British Leyland plants, the problem over redundancies is bound to centre on whose jobs should go. Production workers will insist that the cutbacks should be made among white-collar and management sections.
Eddie McGarry, chairman of the powerful British Leyland joint shop stewards committee, stressed this last night. He said: “Anyone who has been reading the signs at British Leyland appreciates the need for redundancies on a voluntary basis.”
“The shop floor has already answered that need. During the last fifteen months 24,000 to 25,000 manual jobs have gone by agreement.
“But this pattern has not been reflected among the staff sections or among supervisory staff—from foremen upwards—or among lower and upper management.”
Mr McGarry added: “The manual unions capacity to cut back has been exhausted—take my word for it.”
“The management have accepted that during recent discussions—including talks today.”