By CLIFFORD WEBB,
Midlands Industrial Correspondent
Sir Donald Stokes’s appointment of 42-year-old George Turnbull to one of the key British Leyland Motor Corporation posts, was welcomed yesterday both by his new colleagues at Longbridge and by top union officials. Mr. Turnbull will harness the potential of the former B.M.C. plants to. a modern marketing conception.
One senior Longbridge man told me: “Most of us know George very well. He has done a good job at Standard and succeeded in making a lot of friends in the industry at the same time. And remember, he will be leaning heavily on Bill Davis as his deputy, and Davis is a through and through production type. He knows the problems here backwards. Between them they should make a damn good team.”
Top of the list of problems facing Mr Turnbull is the replacement of the frighteningly complex pay structure which has bedevilled labour relations at Longbridge for years. In the delicate negotiations which will precede such a move his own relations with local union officials will play a major role. Harry Urwin, the top Transport and General Workers’ Union official in the Midlands. told me what he expected from Mr. Turnbull.
‘We are not looking for a Father Christmas with a sack of gifts. What we want more than anything else is a man we can respect for his ability.’ There is a great deal of scope for improvement in labour relations at B.M.C. Most of the troubles date back to the original Morris/Austin merger in 1951/52. Then, Sir Leonard Lord called all the trade union officials together to explain the need for rationalization.
“He assured us labour relations would be dealt with plant bv plant, each affiliated to its local employers’ association. To me that seemed doomed from the start. You cannot have a coordinated policy excluding labour relations. On the two occasions when BMC faced major breakdowns, in 1956 and 1966, the board had to step in to carry through wholesale slaughter of the labour force. Stokes and Turnbull have a reputation for competence and integrity. I hope they will use it to introduce a more co-ordinated labour relations policy.”
Andy Boyle, Coventry district secretary of the A.E.F. and a former convener at Standard Triumph, said: “George Turnbull is an extremely efficient administrator who has earned the respect of trade unionists by his actions. He is always correct in his dealings. Not only does he know the book but he gets on well with the shop floor. He is a firm believer in involving his shop stewards in the company’s long term planning. I think his new appointment is a good one from our standpoint.”
Eddie McGarry, chairman of the shop stewards committee at Standard Triumph and joint chairman of the unofficial but extremely powerful British Leyland joint trade union committee, said: “Turnbull is a shrewd operator who has earned his promotion. I suppose it could be called payment by results. When he took over Standard we were in a pretty poor way. Much of the subsequent success of the company is a direct result of Turnbull’s dealings with the unions. Make no mistake, he can be a hard man to deal with, but one you can respect.”
Filmer Paradise, British Leyland’s sales director for Austin-Morris: his problem will be to raise the home sales base. Bigger market slice sought Brussels. September 18. British Leyland plans to raise its domestic sales base to 40 per cent from the present 31 per cent and to base an aggressive worldwide marketing strategy on this, according to Filmer M. Paradise, the new sales director of the Austin-Morris division.
“By rationalizing the volume car business into one division, simplifying the existing product range and introducing sales orientated new models. our share of thc home market will be aggressively expanded”.
He said in an interview. Mr. Paradise agreed with Fortune magazine’s prediction of there eventually being only three or four non-American automobile firms in Europe. He felt that the French industry would group around Renault and Peugeot. the Italian around Fiat and Citroen and the German around VW-Daimler- Benz. But no matter the eventual European grouping, Mr. Paradise said, British Leyland considered Europe a growth market and intended to folllow up the 65 per cent rise in sales this year.
TRIUMPH: The final Triumph TR5 is built today. The first production TR6 is built today.