Archive : Workers win for the boss

By Peter Hitchens

The power of Leyland’s once mighty militants lay shattered on the shop floor last night. The company’s chairman, Sir Michael Edwardes, proved in a landslide vote that BL’s shop stewards speak only for a tiny minority. This was the proof in a national secret ballot on Sir Michael’s plans to streamline the sickly motor monster:

FOR 106,062
AGAINST 15,541

About 80 per cent of the 151,557 workers voted. Those who backed the shop stewards and voted No numbered less than 10 per cent of the entire workforce. Many who voted Yes will lose their jobs when the plan takes effect. Sir Michael declared :

“We have proved that pockets of extreme, activist militancy do not properly reflect the views of the mass of our workers. The shop stewards regrettably failed to represent their members. I hope they will think very hard about how to find ways of expressing their members views more accurately in future.”

He reminded the stewards that they had voted 99 -1 against his plan while the workers had voted by almost 9—1 in favour. ,Sir Michael went on: ” I applaud the courage of everyone of those who voted in favour.”

Then he warned: “There are people who are employed by BL and paid by us who do not like the tough conditions we face. I say here publicly that if any manager, shop steward or employee does not like the heat of the kitchen, now is the time to get out. Anyone not prepared to work for the good of the company is much better out of it than in it.”

Sir Michael urged the British public to back Leyland to the hilt: “I appeal to them to buy the cars and trucks that will be flowing off our production lines in ever increasing numbers, now that we have this ballot behind us.”

Measures to cut the workforce by at least 25,000 and close or partly shut 13 plants, were getting under way even as the result was announced. And moves are afoot for a new union structure throughout the company. Sir Michael made it clear that he would use the secret ballot again if he ran into trouble with shop stewards. Meanwhile, he will go straight to the National Enterprise Board to ask for at least ï¿¡225 million immediately. Much more will be needed to finance new models and huge,redundancy payments to 25,000 workers.

Reactions to the workers verdict :

Mr Moss Evans, leader of the Transport and General Workers; Union which opposed the Edwardes plan : ” In the light of the ballot result we shall have to reconsider our position.”

Transport Union national secretary Mr Grenville Hawley : ” The union’s policy still stands:”

Mr David Buckle, district secretary of the TGWU at Cowley : “The blackmail campaign by British Leyland and the media made the ballot result inevitable.”

Mr Terry Duffy, engineers leader:. “The result augurs well for the future of British Leyland.

Mrs Thatcher told the Commons:, “The ballot has shown the great merit of having a system under which the workforce can be consulted and their views can be properly ascertained about matters which intimately affect their future.”

Mr Leslie Huckfield, Labour Front Bench industry spokesman said the ballet proved nothing , “nor does it solve anything.”

Keith Adams

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