UNIONS SLAP DOWN LEYLAND SURVIVAL PLAN
British Leyland was pushed nearer the point of no return last night when 250 shop stewards flatly rejected chairman Sir Michael Edwardes ‘survival plan’, which envisages drastic slimming of the combine, with 25,000 redundancies and 13 plant closures over the next two years.
The unions refused to budge from an uncompromising position that the State-owned motor firm should continue to be heavily subsidised by the Government, irrespective of losses. The next step by Sir Michael Edwardes will t o ballot t h e 160,000 workforce, giving them details of h i s r p l a n , in an attempt to by-pass the shop stewards and get acceptance from the shop floor. Yesterday at a three-hour meeting in Birmingham, the senior stewards from all over Britain decided to accept the recommendations of an emergency committee and voted overwhelmingly that the Edwardes plan was not acceptable to the unions.
A resolution passed at the meeting said that full support would be given to opposition to the plan. All unions were urged to fight closures and mass redundancies. Mr Ken Baker, president of the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions, said: “All plants must refuse to accept work from those threatened with closure.”
I n reply to charges that the unions were not facing up to reality, Mr Baker said that British Leyland needed adequate funding if it was to remain in the premier league of motor car production.
He declared : ” We believe the attitude of the present Government makes it look very black indeed; The whole plan in our view is structured to this materialistic approach.
“We have made it clear to Sir Keith Joseph [Industry Secretary] that the introduction of a new model will need at least £700 million more than the funds being asked for by British Leyland.”
Mr Baker said the, union would not obstruct British Leyland balloting the workforce, which has been done many times before. I t would be the Confederation executive who would decide on the next step by the unions.
Mr Baker added: “As I understand it the Edwardes’ plan made it clear to the confederation executive that if they did not have the support of the workforce, there would be a distinct possibility, that Leyland might take an unprecedented decision not to apply for funding from the Government-”
“This is a matter for British Leyland.”
Last night a company spokesman said: ” There have been instances when the stewards have voted against company proposals and have been rebuffed, by employees. We can cite the Longbridge dispute earlier this year.”
The companies view is that yesterday’s meeting, though important, was not ” crucial.” The key meeting would be between the full executives of the unions tomorrow or on Tuesday.