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Car Industry Crisis:
A policy for BL [British Leyland] Workers

Written: 1980.
First Published: 1980.
Source: Published by Folrose Ltd. for the Workers Socialist League.
Transcription/HTML Markup: Sean Robertson for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Copyleft: Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line ( 2012. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the Creative Commons license. Please cite any editors, proofreaders and formatters noted above along with any other publishing information including the URL of this document.

BL policy Foreword
Cars Crisis: A policy for BL workers
Why did Evans sell out at BL?
TGWU offers BL ‘continuity of physical output’
BL secret “No Strike ” plan
As we go to press ...
20% NOW!


The international crisis of capitalism reflects itself sharply in car production and in industries related to it such as steel.

Every manufacturer in Europe and North America is severely affected. The crisis has triggered price war between the manufacturers and resulted in bitter competition for remaining markets.

In Britain the car market has collapsed. BL, as one of the smallest and weakest manufacturers on a world scale is on the brink of liquidation. Its collapse would put three quarters of a million workers on the dole and devastate the industrial Midlands.

BL has long been at the centre of the political situation in Britain. It has existed as a microcosm of the British class struggle. It has become a testing ground for the tactics of the government and the employers against the working class as a whole.

This is not new. During the 1960s BL, or the factories which were later to comprise it, had a militant record. BL was a pace-setter for wage rates in Britain. Gaining control of these plants became a major objective of the Wilson government after it was returned in 1966. Moves were begun to end the piece-work system, which workers had turned to their advantage and introduce a flat rate system, Measured Day Work, and eventually centralised negotiations which would put wage rates under the firm control of the management.

Measured Day Work was eventually forced in in 1970. There were two lengthy strikes against it, one at the Jaguar plant in Coventry and the other at the Cowley Assembly Plant.

Action was confined to these two plants mainly because the Communist Party, dominant in the Combine Committee accepted the new system.

But while they got the new system in, management had not achieved the work effort they required. A long struggle began over agreements and working conditions. In the spring of 1974 BL management received the full backing of both the Labour government, just returned to office after four years in opposition, and the leaders of the main unions in BL – Jack Jones of the TGWU and Hugh Scanlon of the AUEW.

They pledged themselves to stop strikes and stamp out the militants, particularly the Trotskyists in the Cowley Assembly Plant.

Accordingly, Alan Thornett was victimised whilst leading a strike of production workers against the use of stopwatches on the tracks. After a successful strike in his defence the TGWU bureaucrats moved in, broke up the trade union organisation in the plant and installed the extreme right wing in office – something that was not reversed until December 1977.

In 1966 came the Ryder Report and the fraudulent “workers’ participation” scheme which the Stalinists of the Communist Party saw as a “step towards” socialism and which did so much damage to the trade union movement. Acting through the “participation” committees Ryder made the expected moves towards ending plant bargaining, established after the ending of piecework, and establishing a corporate system in BL Cars.

New corporate collective agreements were drawn up covering conditions of employment other than wages. A corporate ad-hoc committee was set up which was to become eventually the JNC. Agreement was reached to introduce corporate bargaining over a two year period from November 1, 1977 to November 1, 1979. This involved a contentious new five grade wage structure, the criterion for which had been agreed by people drawn from the top tier of “participation”.

At the end of 1977 Michael Edwardes was seconded to BL from Chloride, with a brief to close down large parts of BL and make the rest profitable.

Derek Robinson, senior “participation” representative as well as a leading member of the Communist Party, welcomed his arrival and led a standing ovation when Edwardes addressed a convenors’ conference called for the occasion.

Six months later Edwardes closed the Speke Assembly Plant, ended the Ryder scheme and replaced “participation” with open dictatorship.

Edwardes worked closely with Thatcher and Joseph after they came to power in May last year. In the autumn they produced the infamous “Edwardes Plan”. This involved the closure or partial closure of 13 plants and the loss of 25,000 jobs. At the same time he offered a 5% wage increase at the first corporate review on November 1 in return for 92 pages of “strings”.

These moves triggered a series of events which have been largely referred to by the Tory government and the employers in Britain, as blueprints for attacking the industrial working class. Edwardes was to become the darling of the Tory club.

First he carefully timed the announcement of his “plan” to head off action over the 5% offer. Then he met leaders of the CSEU and gave them what the Secretary Alex Ferry described as “a look over the precipice”. With the exception of the TGWU they then accepted his plan as necessary in order to “save” BL.

Then Edwardes proposed a ballot of the workforce and the CSEU cooperated. They enclosed their own letter with the ballot form urging workers to vote yes. Not surprisingly Edwardes got a 7-1 majority to a question which amounted to “are you for or against the survival of BL?” TGWU leaflets calling for a NO vote were not available until after the ballot.

The Combine Committee met shortly afterwards for one of its infrequent meetings – it had been allowed to decay during the period of participation, becoming a mere rubber stamp for the participation committee – and adopted the official TGWU line of opposition to the Edwardes plan. A week later Robinson was summarily sacked for putting his name to a pamphlet advocating that policy. Jack Adams and Mick Clark – officers of the committee – were also disciplined for the same thing.

32,000 workers in the Midlands walked out in his defence. This powerful strike was broken after one week through the treachery of Duffy and the refusal of the Communist Party to fight him. It was a major blow to the shop stewards movement in BL and the trade union movement in Britain. Once again Edwardes had set the pace for the ruling class.

In February the trade union side of the JNC decided to ballot BL workers on strike action over the still unresolved wage review. The vote was a 2-1 majority in favour of strike action.

But ballot results, it seems, are only implemented if they go the “right” way for the employers and the right wing.

The national officials refused to implement the decision, even though the steelworkers had been out eight weeks against the government.

Seeing their vacillation Edwardes put the boot in. Anyone who clocked in on April 8, he said, would be deemed as having accepted the 5% and the 92 pages of strings. Those who did not would be sacked.

Once again Edwardes was breaking new ground. The JNC met and for the first time ever took a militant decision. They called upon the unions in BL to call an all out official strike from April 8. Duffy reacted by denouncing the decision and calling for a separate vote of AUEW members – which he “assessed” and declared to be against action. The other unions sat on the fence with the TGWU saying it would support any members who came out on April 8 but they wouldn’t take the initiative of calling them out.

On April 8 the Land Rover workers struck and by the end of the week it had spread to 19,000 workers in the Midlands.

Then Moss Evans made his move. He met Edwardes where he was no doubt given a look over the same precipice as Alex Ferry six months earlier and totally capitulated.

He claimed concessions from the company. But the document he signed merely required management to give two weeks notice of intent to introduce any of the strings. After that they were at liberty to put them in.

On top of this he agreed to “reconstitute” the JNCC.

In return for all this management who had given repeated deadlines to sack all those who were on strike, agreed not to sack them if they went back to work – something they had been saying all along!

So the strike was broken. Duffy started the sellout and Evans completed it. Edwardes marked up another victory for the Tory government.

Since then things have continued to move fast in BL. The collection of articles contained in this pamphlet deals with this last six month period. Management have moved quickly with the CSEU to try (unsuccessfully at this stage) and establish a new JNC comprised entirely of national officials and based on a document containing a legally binding no-strike clause.

The TGWU resolved the problem of their unwanted and embarrassing “opposition” to the Edwardes Plan by commissioning Eurofinance to prepare an “alternative” report. On the basis of this they have adopted a TGWU “alternative report” which offers Thatcher their own no-strike clause in return for import controls and more investment.

BL have withdrawn from the Engineering Employers Federation from August 1, putting all agreements in BL up for grabs.

Behind all these moves is the collapse of the markets which now threaten the very existence of BL as a vehicle manufacturer.

The articles therefore deal extensively with the problem of defending jobs and tackling this year’s wage review under conditions of sharp crisis.

They outline the bankruptcy of reformism and outline the kind of leadership and the kind of programme necessary to tackle the crisis. They are a part of the struggle by the Workers Socialist League for an alternative leadership in BL.


This article was published in Socialist Press on September 17, 1980 and represents an important policy statement by the Workers Socialist League on a policy for BL workers to meet the crisis in the industry.

One of the most dramatic aspects of the current world slump has been the collapse of vehicle sales.

From small cars through to heavy trucks, sales have plunged by anything from 25 to 60%: two of the three major US car monopolies are deep in the red with losses totalling well over $2 billion predicted for this financial year.

The plunge in sales has produced a crisis of overproduction for the major manufacturers: and as stocks of unsold cars have grown uncontrollably, a spate of lay-offs, closures and cutbacks have been imposed on a world scale.

In the US, domestic car production is down to 5.5 million this year – 3.8 million below the 1978 figure. 300,000 car workers are laid off, along with a further 500,000 in component firms and related businesses.

In Italy, Fiat is facing an unsold stock of 60,000 cars with losses on car production last year of $120 million: layoffs have been prevented so far only by militant union resistance.

German Sackings

In West Germany 12,000 car workers have lost their jobs in Ford and Opel, while tens of thousands more are on short time working in the other firms.

In Britain, too, every major car manufacturer is operating short time, layoffs or redundancies as sales have slumped by over 38% this year.

And things are getting worse as the recession continues to deepen.

In such conditions competition between car giants becomes cut throat. There are signs of a price war as manufacturers scramble to launch new models to corner an increased share of a declining market.

Ford, for instance, have launched their new ‘world car’ (the Escort replacement), the Erica, at a US price that means an estimated $200 per car loss in a bid to recapture lost sales.

And Ford’s $4 billion investment programme includes the establishment of automation far in advance of its European rivals – with 500 assembly robots operating in Europe in the next three years.

General Motors, too, is embarked on a vast multi-billion international investment programme involving the closure of “obsolete” plants in Australia and West Germany and the building of new plants with government aid in Austria, Spain and Northern Ireland.

Overshadowing these massive investment programmes is the growth of Japanese car exports. By 1984 Japanese car exports to the USA are expected to equal Ford’s entire US production!


Throughout Europe, too, car manufacturers are bleating long and loud about import penetration – and, of course, blaming workers for low productivity and strikes as supposedly the cause of their economic crisis.

In Britain, Ford has emerged as the most profitable car manufacturer, while the past year has seen both Talbot and Vauxhall claiming to make a loss.

BL, after returning only marginal profits has now returned a £155 million loss for the first half of this year, indicating a new crisis point for the corporation.

But recent months have seen a rapid deterioration in the UK. Both Talbot and Vauxhall are on short time.

The slump, coupled with closures in heavy manufacturing industry such as steel, have also resulted in the lay-up of tens of thousands of lorries in the areas affected.

This has created by far the worst slump in the history of the heavy vehicle industry. Fodens have gone into liquidation, while some BL heavy vehicle plants are operating only one day a week.

In cars, BL plants are operating at only a fraction of its capacity with many plants on short time working. Further cuts are taking place at Jaguar, Range Rover, the Rover SD 1 Saloon where output is now a mere 20% of the target announced when the model was launched four years ago.

The Cowley Assembly Plant which has a capacity of nearly 10,000 cars a week, is also cutting production down to 1,900 a week – a mere 20% of capacity.

These BL cuts come despite the near completion of the factory closures under the Edwardes plan. Canley is now closed, Castle Bromwich is closed and MG closes next month.

The best indication of the slump is the new mini Metro, which was to be the “saviour of BL”. Before it is even in the showrooms its production target has been halved to 3,500 per week!

Similarly the new Morris Ital has been cut back after only 3 months on the market.

Under these conditions can BL survive? It is hard to see how.

Certainly the near future is likely to produce at the very least a further “Edwardes Plan”, foreshadowing the complete break-up of the company.


Under these conditions how can BL workers defend their jobs?

On the face of it things look impossibly bleak. The employers are getting away with murder.

Factories throughout industry are closing daily.

But it must be understood that the biggest single reason for the success of the employers in closing plants without resistance from the workforce is that the strength of the trade union movement has never been used to stop one!

In steel, for example, not a finger is being lifted to stop the closures. Redundancy pay was negotiated at Port Talbot against the official policy of the unions.

At Consett the unions “reluctantly recommended” acceptance of the closure – even while stirring speeches were being made against the closure at the TUC!

The Confed actually backed the Edwardes plan. When BL balloted the workforce the Confed enclosed a letter urging a “yes” vote.

As a result, Derek Robinson was sacked and Edwardes won a major victory.

Is it any wonder with such leaders that there are few fights against closures at the present time?

When workers make a stand, as at Meccano, the officials refuse to give them enough backing to win.

If closures are to be challenged there is only one answer – a programme to defend the jobs, direct action to implement the programme and the mobilisation of the full strength of the trade union movement behind that action.

But a programme and action of this kind is a directly political question.

It requires a leadership that refuses to accept the “right” of the employer to make profits at the expense of the exploitation and redundancy of his workforce.


In other words it requires a leadership that is prepared to fight for the overthrow of the anarchic and crisis-ridden capitalist system of production.

But the existing trade union leadership seek only to achieve reforms within the capitalist system.

They recognise that their own fat salaries, expense accounts and influential positions depend upon their ability to balance between the strength of the working class and the strength of the employers. If the employers were defeated, the union bureaucracy itself could also be swept away.

This is why the union leaders time and again emerge as opposed to any direct challenge to the system itself: and even when the capitalists make it clear there are no reforms on offer, the union bureaucrats divert workers with illusions that if they make concessions on hard-won conditions and living standards, it will open the door.

The Stalinists of the Communist Party who dominate the shop stewards in BL are no different. Their policy of “peaceful coexistence” with capitalism lands them up in peaceful coexistence with Edwardes! They have an appalling record.

They accepted both the Measured Day Work system and the Ryder Report. Derek Robinson, as senior “participation” representative pledged “total cooperation” at the inception of the Metro project.

The Stalinists supported the witch-hunt of Trotskyists. They helped to introduce the new five grade structure and advocated corporate-level bargaining. They even refused to challenge Duffy when Robinson himself was sacked in a major move designed to discipline the trade union movement.

Now Jack Adams, the successor to Derek Robinson has circulated a bulletin around the Longbridge plant calling for full cooperation with the mini Metro project – only days after he was disciplined by management for attending a meeting of the BL Combine Committee!

Between the Communist Party convenors and right wing union officials a division of labour has been established in which through both the official and unofficial bodies of the unions they combine to block any independent struggle and to force through the only policy they can offer – on which they both agree: the reactionary call for import controls.

Apparent logic

Many workers see more import controls as a way to save British industry and defend British jobs.

The policy appears to have a logic: imported cars for example have doubled their penetration into the British market in the past ten years.

Imports are going up. Would it therefore not be “sensible” to cut imports and protect the British car industry?

After all didn’t “Japanese competition” destroy the motorcycle industry?

It is this kind of apparent logic, coupled with an overwhelming desire not to get into a confrontation with the motor employers which has led major unions like the TGWU to base everything around the demand on the Tories for import controls.

The TGWU Executive Council launched their Save British Industry Campaign last spring which adopted a ten point charter on import controls.

They have adopted a TGWU ‘alternative plan’ in which they offer a no-strike clause in return for import controls and more investment.

The question is would import controls save jobs even if Margaret Thatcher and Keith Joseph could be persuaded to implement them?

Thatcher and Joseph of course look at things from the point of view of capitalism as a whole and know the implications. The TGWU charter argues that there would be no retaliatory action by other trading nations; yet similar protectionist policies are being advocated throughout the capitalist world under the impact of the economic crisis.

While the TGWU for example gets together with Edwardes to pressure the Tories for controls, the United Auto Workers union in the USA is also getting together with US manufacturers – to push Carter for protection of the American industry!

But Thatcher and other capitalist governments recognise that import controls are protectionism and protectionism is a step towards all-out trade war.

In such a trade war no capitalist trading nation will simply allow even ‘selected’ industries within its economy to be hit by new tariffs without defending itself by retaliation.

Under these conditions the weakest will go to the wall – British capitalism is undoubtedly the weakest.

British capitalism is also the most vulnerable to retaliation. The USA for example exports only 6% of total production, Britain exports 30%. For British capitalism to go around the world threatening to impose sanctions and protectionist policies would be very rash indeed.

Those in BL who support such action should know that it is very unlikely that BL could survive such conditions.

But these economic realities are not the main reason that the Workers Socialist League opposes import controls.

Our opposition is one of political principle.

For workers in Britain to get together with their “own” employers to save their “own” industry resolves nothing. It is not in any case their “own” industry. They neither own nor control it.

Workers in Britain have far more in common with Japanese, French, German or Italian workers than they can ever have with a ‘British’ boss. All workers are exploited and face very similar problems.

To gang together with your “own” boss against workers in another country, simply feeds reactionary nationalist sentiments while playing right into the hands of the employer.

Such class collaboration places workers immediately on the employers’ home ground, and the employers’ response is obvious and universal: if the trade unions want to fight to keep out Japanese or Italian imports then productivity must be raised, the commodity must be made more competitive, wages must be held down, factories must be closed and hard won agreements must be given up!

The trade union leaders have, of course, gone along with this – as BL workers are painfully aware.

The unions are now involving themselves in advertising campaigns and sales promotion. The TGWU recently gave a full page of the Record to a reprint of BL’s ‘Buy British’ advertisement. Convenors cooperate in sales promotions in their individual plants.

In this way import controls lead workers directly into alliance with their own employer at the very point when they are facing severe conditions created by the crisis of capitalism and requiring a socialist solution.

So how can BL workers actually defend themselves under these conditions? There is no magic formula.

First and foremost it is a question of leadership. They must be prepared to challenge their existing “leaders” at every level. They must tell them to stop the sell-outs. Stop the collaboration with management, stop the soft jobs and the easy life.

It is necessary to find ways of demonstrating clearly to workers exactly what these ‘leaders’ are and who they represent.

At the same time defence of jobs needs a plan, a programme around which to organise action. Workers must demand that their leaders support this plan. Workers must at the same time be prepared to build a new leadership from amongst those who are prepared to fight.

The situation must be ended where the employers keep all the trump cards in their hands and are allowed to play them so that everything turns into a scramble for the highest redundancy pay. This happens when it appears to workers that there is no alternative but to accept the money.

There must be a clear alternative which can develop a confidence amongst workers that there is a real chance of success in defending their jobs.

Such an alternative must start clearly from the independent interests of the working class as distinct from that of the employers.

The trade unions must declare that the problems facing the workers stem from the private enterprise system of the employers themselves.

They arise from the system of production for profit and the contradictions within the capitalist mode of production.

They must say clearly that the working class have a right to a decent house and a right to a living wage, a right to a decent home and a right to a health and education service.

They must say that it is unacceptable that the working class be made to pay for the crisis.

Having got that straight it is necessary to have a programme which directly challenges the “rights” and prerogatives which employers have for so long been allowed to exercise.

Business secrecy for example. When closures and redundancies are announced the only people who know the whole picture are the employers: this enables them to say anything they like to justify their actions.

Last spring, Edwardes created a crisis situation. He claimed massive overstocking, laid most plants off for a month and ran a programme of voluntary redundancy.

When Edwardes’ “crisis” was investigated (by an open the books committee set up from the shop stewards committee in Cowley, for example) it was found that with the exception of the Rover SD1, stocks at the time were normal!

The lay-off had created a shortage of cars. A month later some plants put production up and recruited labour – having just made hundreds “redundant”!

The exercise, while appearing to be economic madness, in fact paid Edwardes very well. It was timed just before the crunch on the annual wage review and created the feeling that it was hard, to fight for wages because the company was stacked out with cars. It had the desired effect.

This autumn, although the crisis is very real and not contrived it is again being manipulated and synchronised to coincide with the pay review to have a similar effect.

The only reason management can play this kind of game is because they monopolise information.

When a closure is announced they usually show the full time officials a simple balance sheet of profit and loss. But this does not mean anything. Only management have all the information; and they use it to suit themselves.

They never reveal where all the money is going–for instance what they are paying for their components and services; or what rake off the distributors are getting.

Even small items like how much they are paying into Tory Party funds or £1 million to charter a cruise liner to take the distributors on a holiday are hidden away.

Yet two-thirds of a car is manufactured in the private component industry. With BL being government controlled the pricing policy of the component suppliers is of particular importance.

There is no point in saying BL is making a ‘loss’ if profit is simply being creamed off by component manufacturers.

Distributors, for example, get a 30% rake-off from the sale of a car.

To get a true picture it is necessary to know all of this. If workers are to lose their jobs or are being denied a living wage they have the right to know.

The unions should therefore demand the opening of the books – all the books, all the files and all the information about the operation of the company as well as its suppliers, distributors and bankers – who are currently receiving £70 million a year in interest payments from BL.

This investigation is a step towards workers’ control. If it turns out that the company is bankrupt then the mobilisation created around forcing the opening of the books can be turned to actively demand nationalisation in the case of a private firm.

If the firm is already nationalised, demands can be placed on the government to nationalise the distributors, the suppliers and the banks and to fund a programme of alternative production for social use under workers’ management.

A campaign of this sort gives the initiative back to the labour force and puts management on the defensive.

Obviously simply to open the books will not save jobs. For that occupation is crucial.

Thoughts of redundancy payments must be set aside, and everything concentrated on defending the plant.

The property of the employer must be seized and the plant brought physically under workers’ control.

Occupation alone may not be enough but it certainly puts management on the defensive, gives workers confidence, raises the issue sharply and provides the necessary platform to demand full support from the trade union movement for what is usually decisive in the end – strike action in support.

A major battle of this sort would transform the situation in relationship to closures and must be the objective if a new Edwardes plan is announced in BL.

To avoid occupations the employers run plants down gradually. It is an effective tactic.

Immediate occupation

Just look at Canley and Castle Bromwich. By the time the closure comes there is not much left. Occupation should therefore be immediate, whilst the plant and the workforce is still intact.

Voluntary redundancy (VR) is also used repeatedly to run down plants both for closure and to cut production.

In some plants management select who will go from amongst those who apply. They select the shop stewards and the militants.

In the Cowley Assembly Plant 80 out of 180 TGWU shop stewards went VR last spring in one exercise. It both deflates the trade union movement and gives the impression that stewards have been given preference.

VR must be resisted. If it cannot be stopped then manning levels must be defended and workers who go VR replaced on their jobs.

Work sharing on full pay, when management cut production.

BL workers have fallen far behind in the wages league. In 1973 for example, the national average wage was £40 a week. A track worker in BL was on £50. Now a BL track worker is on £88 and the national average wage is £122.

This year the 20% claim must be won in full. One of its weaknesses is that it has no cost of living clause to cancel out the effects of inflation.

Future claims must contain such a clause. Since the working class are not responsible for inflation and have no influence over it they must have agreements adequate to protect them against it.

But neither jobs nor wages are going to be defended unless there is a struggle for leadership.

The official leaders are moving rapidly to the right – as shown at the recent TUC Congress. Now they are not just calling for import controls but even supporting Callaghan’s call for wage controls.

The TGWU on the basis of the report they commissioned from Eurofinance, have drawn up an “alternative plan” for BL which offers a no strike clause in return for more investment and import controls.

In talks on the reconstitution of the BL JNC the Confed discussed a document containing a legally binding no strike clause.

Although no agreement was reached this is still on the agenda to be resolved by the 1981 review.

Meanwhile the unofficial BL Combine Committee is almost defunct. Its recent meeting (the first for a year) was attended by less than 50 stewards–the smallest meeting since it was set up 16 years ago.

In an unprecedented move, those who attended the meeting including Longbridge convenor Jack Adams were disciplined by management for attending an unofficial meeting inside working hours. This means that the committee is unlikely to meet again in the foreseeable future.

The Combine Committee must be rebuilt. Historically the shop floor strength in the car industry has been built on the unofficial movement. But this requires a development amongst militant workers and shop stewards in BL.

This is a big job but is entirely possible. The Leyland Action Committee has made an important start. It has adopted a programme which is essentially the same as the programme outlined in this article.

An action programme for BL must break down divisions between workers throughout the car industry, both inter-nationally and within Britain.

Ford workers must not be played off against BL workers. Vauxhall workers must not be played off against Talbot workers, or workers in the component industry.

Such moves must be combated through the call for a nationalised integrated car and component industry in Britain, embracing all car and component manufacturers and distributors. Only such a measure could bring any kind of planning or order to the industry.

It is true to say that no real or lasting solution can be achieved under capitalism; that only socialism and a planned economy can resolve the problem.

But there is an intimate connection between the fight in defence of the workers rights today and the possibility of overturning capitalism and establishing socialism.

Trotsky set this out in the Transitional Programme.

The programme explains that it is only through the defence of the working class today that a leadership can be developed in struggle, adequate to the task of social revolution.

It is only through such struggles that the consciousness of the working class in the car industry and elsewhere can be raised to carry through that historic task.

We Demand!

* 20% wage increase now!
* Restore the agreements lost last year!
* For a sliding scale of wages to protect against inflation!
* Defend jobs – stop redundancies – work sharing on full pay!
* Stop all closures – occupy the plants.
* Support occupations with an all-out official strike.
* Open the books of BL, the suppliers, distributors and banks.
* For a new leadership in BL – build the Leyland Action Committee.
* Strengthen the shop stewards movement – rebuild the combine committee.
* For a nationalised, integrated automotive industry under workers’ management.


This article was published on April 23, 1980. 19,000 BL workers in the Midlands struck against Edwardes’ April 8 ultimatum to workers in BL Cars to accept 5% or be sacked. The strike was broken by Moss Evans who met Edwardes and concluded an agreement which included the reconstitution of the JNC and the acceptance of the 5% and the 92 page document in return for a ten-day standstill on the introduction of the strings.

There have been few humiliating betrayals in recent years to match last week’s capitulation of Moss Evans to Michael Edwardes.

Within 24 hours of the BL management, threat to sack any carworkers still on strike after Wednesday April 23, Evans, the ‘left’ talking leader of the 2-million strong TGWU, was on his knees pleading for a settlement.

He emerged from the talks having given in to management on every front, and calling for an end to the strikes by 18,000 workers that were threatening to bring the whole of BL Cars to a halt.


The sell-out came after a week in which Evans, under massive pressure from his 47,000 members in BL, had actually encouraged strikes by promising official support to any plant or section that took action against Edwardes’ 5%-with-strings pay package.

In a succession of militant statements, Evans went so far as to declare that even the dropping of management’s 92-page book of “strings” would still leave the 5% pay offer as an issue in dispute.

Yet in the face of BL’s threat of mass sackings he collapsed like a pricked balloon and emerged with a “deal” which:
* accepted the unchanged package, and agreed that its conditions would become the “status quo” in any subsequent disputes.
* agreed a ten day discussion period for the introduction of major changes, at the end of which each side would be free to pursue their own course of action–including management imposition of changes.

In exchange, Evans claimed, management had promised to “work constructively” with the unions and to drop its threat to sack strikers on April 23.

Yet in fact Edwardes never withdrew the sacking threat: all that was agreed was that if a return to work took place before Wednesday there would be no sackings!

The question now being asked by thousands of workers is why Evans’ militant speeches on the Tuesday led to abject surrender on the Thursday.

Leading the pack

Why did Evans – who appeared so different to Duffy in his fostering of resistance to the management package – wind up leading the pack of 11 union leaders who last week signed the deal and accepted the 92-page document?

The answer to this question is precisely that Labour and trade union leaders who seek simply to achieve reforms within the capitalist system are unable in a period of acute international slump and crisis to defend the independent interests of their members.

Throughout British industry the falling rate of profit is driving employers onto the offensive against the working class.

Wholesale rationalisation, closure of unprofitable plant, speed-up and redundancies are being carried through at a breakneck rate in a bid to restore “viable” levels of profit at the expense of the workforce.

This process, already under way under the Labour Government, has gathered pace under Thatcher’s gang of bankers and asset strippers, who see the creation of a 2 million pool of unemployed as a useful means of disciplining and breaking the strength of the working class.

And prime target for this treatment has been BL, the only British car manufacturer.

The car industry internationally faces a major crisis as a result of the slump in world trade and fierce competition over the remaining markets.

The impending bankruptcy of Chrysler USA and the $1 billion lost last year by Ford, along with massive lay-offs and closures in the US motor industry indicate the scale of the problem.

As such BL is both a test-bed for Tory strategy to tame and crush the trade union, and a crucial element in their fight to restore the profitability of the British engineering industry as a whole.

Yet reformist leaders like Evans and Duffy start out from acceptance of the need for production to be based not on social need but on private profit.

They accept that the employers have the “right” to a profit – at the expense of the working class.

They will not even challenge the figures on which the employers base their blackmailing demands.

It is no accident that Evans emerged from his sell-out to Edwardes declaring that:

“We want to maintain a British motor manufacturer. We will do all we can provided we are consulted properly. We think we have saved BL Cars tonight.”

From the documents shown him by BL management, Evans declared himself convinced that there was “no more money available” to increase the 5% pay offer.

His words echoed those of the leadership of the Confed who last winter backed Edwardes’ demand for 25,000 redundancies, and informed their scandalised members that they had “seen over the precipice” and that only through the sacrifice of thousands of jobs could any jobs be saved.

Yet the reality is that the capitalist crisis is an ongoing and insoluble crisis; the drive to speed-up and to rationalisation is continuous.

As recent years have proved, every sacrifice, every retreat, every concession to employers like Edwardes simply whets their appetite for more.


The interests of the employers in increasing their profits stand in complete oppos

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continue to peddle the illusion of a “common”, “national” interest in which management and workers are united.

Hence the TGWU Record for instance last week gave over a free page to an advert in favour of import controls – drawn up by BL management!


The reality is that far more British jobs have been lost from the collaboration between union leaders and British employers than have been wiped out by “foreign” competition.

Indeed it is only through the struggle against the anarchy and exploitation of the capitalist system both in Britain and internationally, and the fight for a planned socialist economy that the interests of the working class can be defended.

Evans like his fellow TUC bureaucrats has proved time and again that he stands firmly against such a fight.

Nor is it only in BL that he has opposed the mobilisation of the full strength of the working class in struggle against the Tory government. Throughout the 14 week steel strike Evans turned a deaf ear to appeals for action to stop lorries crossing picket lines, and to growing calls for General Strike action.

Yet, paradoxically, even in knifing the Leyland struggle Evans has prompted a new level of political debate amongst thousands of workers who know they have been sold down the river, and are now forced to look for a leadership that is prepared to fight to defend their interests.

This requires the construction of a revolutionary leadership committed to the fight to mobilise the full strength of the workers’ movement in action to bring down the Tories, drive out the opponents of socialism that form the present Labour leadership, and carry through the struggle for a workers’ government based on the nationalisation without compensation of the basic industries, banks and trusts, and the establishment of a planned socialist economy.


This article, published on August 13, 1980, covers the moves of the TGWU leadership to drop all opposition to the Edwardes Plan. It covers the Eurofinance report commissioned by the TGWU and the TGWU alternative plan drafted from it.

A reformist trade union leader, as every class conscious worker knows, is one who accepts that capitalism is necessary (in many cases thinks it is desirable) and sees his or her job as attempting to obtain a few concessions within the system – providing the system itself is not threatened and his or her own privileged position within it is maintained.

This political position lies behind the numerous betrayals which the leadership foist on the working class, particularly in a period of severe economic crisis.

Nowhere are such betrayals more clear than in British Leyland where reformist leaders face the issue most difficult for them – the crisis of profitability of the Company.


It is of course not new for trade union leaders to acquiesce to closures or redundancies. It is not new for them to do behind-the-scenes deals and to sell out struggles.

What was new in BL when the Edwardes plan was announced last September was that the leadership of the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions (the CSEU) actually supported the closure of the 13 plants and 25,000 redundancies.

They actively argued that it was necessary, and railroaded the plan through the shop stewards movement.

They were themselves responsible for ensuring that the plan was accepted by organising the infamous secret ballot jointly with the management. They recommended the 90,000 workforce to vote 25,000 threatened people out of a job.

Not surprisingly, this collusion, and the confusion it created, resulted in a 7-1 vote in favour of the plan.

This vote was quickly turned to full advantage by management who sacked Derek Robinson with the help of the right wing of the AUEW and the Communist Party – in this way seeking further to intimidate and discipline the BL workforce.

The “left wing” of the trade union movement, represented by the TGWU at the time, took an outwardly more militant line.

They loudly opposed the Edwardes plan. But at the same time they refused to do anything about it, preferring to hide behind the decisions of the Confed – in which they were a minority rather than using the weight of their majority membership position in BL.

They, of course, had no alternative policies to offer any way other than their standard appeals to the government for more investment and for the reactionary, nationalist policy of import controls.

But Moss Evans still had a problem. Management were saying they were bankrupt.

After all, if the profitability simply was not there, and the market share was still falling, how could you force BL to continue to employ 25,000 workers that it didn’t need?


Faced with a classical capitalist problem, and devoid of any socialist solution, Evans turned for advice to the capitalists themselves.

He decided to commission a Paris-based group of capitalists – Euro Finance Ltd – to produce a study of BL and to advice the TGWU on what its policy should be!

Accordingly on the basis of the very substantial fee paid to them by the TGWU, Euro Finance Ltd produced a lengthy report. It said that the major problems which BL has is the refusal of the TGWU to give wholehearted support to the Edwardes plan!

The report of course did not put its conclusions in terms as clear as that. They were couched in a mask of objectivity but behind this was their clear class position.


The report ‘assessed’ the various options open to BL, and concluded that the best option for BL would be a partnership with another manufacturer with whom they would pool development costs – probably Honda.

The report criticises the Edwardes plan but then goes on to say that there is no point in even discussing various options to the Edwardes plan unless BL is going to survive – and it will only do that if the Edwardes plan is supported or management persuaded by force of argument to change it!

In any event the main point is to support the management. The report puts it in this way:

“At BL Cars in particular, the period 1980-83 will be critical. Depending on their force, short term shocks to BL Cars during – 1980-83 could trigger collapse at the business, although more probable would be further sharp reductions in the fixed cost base, i.e. plant closures, investment cuts and manpower reductions”.

Later on it explains:

“Support for measures to limit BL’s exposure to short-term shocks is tantamount to support for the BL 1980 plan”. (The Edwardes plan.)

The report concludes by giving its advice to the TGWU:

“From the confusion of the current situation, it seems to us that the TGWU should focus on the questions of limiting BL’s exposure to short term shocks and the crucially important LC10 programme. (...)
This is not meant to imply that everything be surrendered to short-term exigencies and the LC10 programme. But it may mean having to face both ways at once [!].
This is because the hard questions about BL Cars future under the 1980 plan will not go away, however much short term support the Company can muster, and however smoothly the LC10 programme is kept rolling.
But there will not be any hard questions about BL Cars manufacturing future if LC10 fails to meet plan targets”.

Well it is certainly not necessary for Euro Finance to explain to the leadership of the TGWU how to face both ways at once.

They are past masters at the exercise.

But what this conclusion to the report means is that Moss Evans has expended a large sum of union funds simply to be told what BL management have never ceased to say – if you don’t knuckle under, BL will close down and throw you all out of a job.

It didn’t need thousands of pounds to get that answer. Edwardes would have told them for nothing as he has done thousands of times in the past.

The report, however, had a very big effect on the TGWU leadership.

At the June meeting of the General Executive Council it was decided to continue opposition to the Edwardes plan:

“until such times as senior stewards have had an opportunity to assess the contents of the report”.

In other words they will end their opposition as soon as they can get it organised.

When the senior stewards met shortly afterwards they were handed a document which claimed that the Euro Finance report “substantially supports” the views of the TGWU on the Edwardes plan.

This is rather bizarre, since the report advocated that the Edwardes plan be supported in the absence of an alternative acceptable to the Company!

The document proposed that a “small working group” be set up to draw up a plan for BL.

“Euro Finance have sketched in the background”, it explained, “a small working group could put the flesh on these bones and return within a month with a reasoned argument which would engage the confidence of all those involved”.

What is needed, argues the document, is “a consensus on the way forward” and a “declaration of intent” by the TGWU, by BL and by the government.

In other words, the years of ‘participation’ under the Labour government and Ryder, which did so much damage to the trade union movement within BL, are to be replaced by a joint “declaration of intent” with Thatcher’s Tory government, designed to keep the factories running at all costs.

“Three years peace”

Any doubt about the seriousness of this turn or the support it will get from the increasingly bureaucratised convenors, was dispelled by the statement made to the press by Grenville Hawley, TGWU Automotive Group National Secretary, when he emerged from the convenors’ meeting.

It was necessary to have “three years peace” at BL he declared. He thought this would be accepted because “there had not been a militant voice raised at the meeting”.

The TGWU report that has been produced accepts the Euro Finance report in almost its entirety.

The exception is on import controls. Euro Finance make the case for import controls – but also point out the contradictions – particularly BL’s intention to become the spearhead of Honda penetration into the European market through the Bounty.

But apart from this – which the TGWU report simply ignores – there is complete agreement.

In fact the TGWU report is a scissors and paste job of clippings from Euro Finance and sections produced by the TGWU research department.

It amounts to 40 pages of crass comment about the car industry designed to cover up a very deadly sting in the tail.

Like Euro Finance it calls for a partnership with another company and for more investment into BL.

But whereas Euro Finance call for three years of peace and say that any sharp shock would finish the company, the TGWU actually makes it much more specific.

In the key section they call for government funding of £1,532 million by 1985. In return for this they make the following proposals:

“It would be the height of folly to embark on the committal of resources on this scale unless other measures were taken to ensure at least some guarantee of success.
We see there being five major inter-related areas that have to be envisaged:
1. Drastic but selective controls over imports.
2. Declared movement towards a full scale partnership.
3. Substantial revitalisation of engineering resources.
4. Continuity of physical output.
5. Adequate investment.
All five points have to be taken together as they embrace the short term objective of establishing the viability of the Cars division and the medium term objective of forming part of a two million unit / annum combine.
Beyond that time scale, 1995-2000, the issues are rather speculative. All the points are now examined in some detail”.

The key to it all, of course, is “continuity of physical output”. This is as near as you can get to a no-strike clause.

It is the logic of the Ryder report – that the interests (or survival) of the Company comes first – put down in writing in a document compiled by the major union in the car industry.

This is exactly the argument used time and time again by Terry Duffy.

It was the reason Duffy and the Confed accepted the Edwardes plan in the first place (and collaborated in the sacking of Robinson).

In the words of Alex Ferry (Duffy’s man in the leadership of the Confed):

“Michael Edwardes gave us a look over the precipice and we didn’t like what we saw”.

Exactly the same argument was used by Duffy when he urged acceptance of the 5% offer and 92 pages of strings.

And it was exactly the argument used by Jack Jones and Hugh Scanlon to force in the Ryder plan and the collaborationist ‘participation’ committees which did so much damage to the shop floor movement in BL.

At that time we had Jones and Scanlon on the front page of the Leyland Mirror saying – KEEP WORKING!

In BL the Jones / Scanlon right wing axis of 1976-78 has now been replaced by the Evans / Duffy axis of 1980.

The logic of reformism is inexorable. Moss Evans seemed verbally far away from Terry Duffy.

He took different positions on Labour Party reform. He seemed far away from Duffy in the Ford strike and the lorry drivers’ strike – both issues where the question of capitalist profitability did not appear to be so clearly posed.


But once Evans became personally involved in BL things were quickly different.

His spectacular collapse last April during the strike in the Midlands plants over the imposition of the 5% wage offer and 92 pages of strings was the key turning point.

No doubt Edwardes gave Evans a quick look over the same precipice that had given Alex Ferry vertigo six months earlier.

When the chips, were down, the left and the right came together in defence of capitalism.

Evans’ problem of course will be getting his document accepted by the management – despite the inducement of a no-strike clause.

For the government, the additional finance called for will be unacceptable. But this does not make the document any less dangerous.

Whether or not the document becomes formally accepted, the “declaration of intent” spells out the attitude of the TGWU leadership.

It says clearly that the problems of the management are more important than even the most basic trade union principles.

The point will not be lost on Edwardes or the government.

Secondly the document is immediately damaging to the struggle for the wage review. It provokes discussion about the viability of the Company at just the point when all attention should be turned towards the negotiations due to begin for the November wage review.

But the document is not the only problem the workers face – although it is the most far-reaching.

When the bargaining structure in BL is taken into account it can be seen that BL workers are in a very difficult position indeed.

The fact is that since corporate bargaining was introduced 18 months ago BL workers have had no means of expressing their collective view except through a highly bureaucratised Joint Negotiating Committee – which had no powers to call strike action even if its decisions could have been influenced by the shop floor.

Last April even this body was virtually disbanded after it supported the strike in the Midlands plant.

Not influenced

A committee comprised of national officials who could not be influenced in any way by the shopfloor was set up, with powers to override the JNC.

It quickly used these powers to sign a highly controversial procedural agreement over the heads of the BL workforce which effectively crushed any opposition to the new five grade structure forced in by management.

Whilst TGWU officials and leading convenors have been drawing up the document and giving away the right to strike, nothing has been done to reconstitute the JNC in order to clear the way for wage negotiations to begin.

They have completely ignored the campaign waged in some plants for a democratic representative JNC to be set up based on a representative conference of BL workers.

In the Cowley Assembly Plant workers signed a mass petition on these lines and copies were sent to every level of the TGWU inside and outside of BL – but no response has been forthcoming.

Edwardes meanwhile has been far from complacent. He has called for the JNC to be permanently replaced by a committee comprised solely of national officials, and has sent proposals on these lines to the general secretaries of the unions concerned.

He has also made the major tactical move of withdrawing BL from the Engineering Employers Federation from 1 August 1980.

The implications of this are far-reaching for BL workers.

From 1 August all agreements negotiated with the Federation covering minimum rates, premium payments, holidays and hours of work will cease to exist.

Yet not a word has reached the shop floor from the unions.

They have been too busy trying to solve the company’s profitability problems at the expense of their members.

It is obvious that another major attack on BL workers is in the offing.

Edwardes will use the crisis in the industry and his withdrawal from the Federation to launch another vicious package against BL workers in reply to the review.

The Combine Committee has not met since Derek Robinson was sacked. Its first meeting since that time is scheduled for Wednesday of this week.

It is crucial that the committee takes the decision to reject all capitalist “solutions” to the problems of BL workers.

It must tackle the question of democratic representation of BL workers on a reconstituted JNC. The Cowley Assembly Plant has placed this on the agenda and it is crucial it is supported.

There is no reformist answer to this attack. The problems of BL are the problems of capitalism which is in acute economic crisis on a world scale.

Workers are not the cause of this crisis. They have no influence over it and no responsibility towards it.

Their only answer can be to defend their independent interests against the interests of capitalism.

* Work sharing on full pay!
* Open the books of BL and its suppliers and distributors to an elected committee of rank and file trade unionists!
* For a nationalised, integrated, automotive and components industry.
* For a democratic; fully representative, negotiating committee elected at a delegate conference.
* For a wage claim to re-establish the standard of living of BL workers and a sliding scale of wages to protect the new rates against inflation.


This article was published on August 27 1980. It exposes secret negotiations which took place from April through August between BL management and the Executive Committee of the Confed on the reconstitution of the JNC. They discussed several drafts of a document containing among other things a legally binding no-strike clause. Although final agreement was not eventually reached and the exercise has now been put back to a later date, it gives an indication of how far the Confed are prepared to go.

A secret legally binding no strike agreement between BL and the major unions is in an advanced state of discussion.

The agreement – which would finally remove all vestiges of control by BL workers over their own demands and negotiations – has been discussed in complete secrecy by the Executive of the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions.

It stems from the attack by the Tories on the unions but shows union officials implicated up to their necks in the most vicious attack yet carried out on BL workers.

The ‘no strike’ clause as yet applies only to strikes called by the Confed or any strikes called against ‘federations and associations of employers’.

Legally binding

But it also seeks legally binding agreement that all disputes would be referred for decision to a BL Council made up of top management of BL and Leyland Vehicles and full time officials of the Confed. The BL Council “shall have the responsibility and authority to ensure that procedural arrangements are agreed and maintained”.

The background to the attack is the dissolving of the previous BL National Joint Negotiating Committee which ceased to exist on August 1 in line with the document signed by Moss Evans for the TGWU in April to sell out the Midlands strikes.

The document, drawn up between BL and the Confed executive, has been named ‘The Relationship Agreement’.

That relationship is as follows: a Joint Negotiating Committee (the BL Council) entirely composed of national officials appointed by the Confed; the stamping out of the Combine Committee by both the company and the unions and for a legally enforceable ‘no strike’ clause.

The document says:

“The employing Companies will provide appropriate facilities for representation and negotiations. The employing Companies win not provide any facilities for unconstitutional trade unionism ...
”The unions shall take active steps wherever necessary to maintain constitutional trade unionism among employees and to prevent unconstitutional trade unionism from damaging the employing Companies ...
“The parties acknowledge their unique responsibilities for securing the survival and the success of the United Kingdom’s only remaining major automotive manufacturer ...
“The BL Council shall become responsible for the BL Procedure Agreement for hourly paid employees of 29 March 1976; questions arising under section 6 (Interpretation and Application) of that Agreement shall be referred to the Council for resolution ...
“The BL Council shall have the responsibility and authority to ensure that procedural arrangements are agreed and maintained in the employing Companies ...
“Employees covered by 6.2 and 6.3 shall not take part in strikes or other forms of industrial action in support of any claim or dispute between any or all of the unions and federations and associations of employers.
“Since the Agreement has been freely and voluntarily entered into by the parties on behalf of the BL employing Companies and on behalf of the employees it shall be mutually binding in honour and in law and shall therefore expressly form part of the contracts of employment of those employees who are covered by its scope . . .
“Any question of interpretation of this Agreement that cannot be determined within the procedures adopted by the employing Companies shall be referred to the BL Council for resolution ...
“The unions’ members shall normally be the President of the CSEU, the General Secretary of the CSEU and national officials, to be appointed by the CSEU.
“Additionally, one national official of any union not normally represented may attend a meeting of special importance at the request of his national executive committee or other comparable body.”

The document is not yet signed. It has been discussed in secret by the Confed executive at two meetings in the past three months and a further meeting was being held this Wednesday (August 27).

Officials were obviously planning to reach agreement without informing the workforce.


As this pamphlet goes to print there is a change in the approach of management to the reconstitution of the JNC. They have now accepted the logic of their withdrawal from the Engineering Employers Federation and have ceased to negotiate with the CSEU.

As a. result of this the CSEU are no longer involved in the reconstitution of the JNC. The whole issue has now been placed in the hands of Grenville Hawley (for BL Cars) and the AUEW national official (for BL Vehicles), who will convene a TGWU BL (cars and heavy vehicles) delegate conference and put proposals to it in the shape of a reconstituted JNC.

Unfortunately it is unlikely to be a genuine delegate conference. Hawley has control of convening it and will almost certainly confine it to senior shop stewards or even selected senior stewards from the various Regions.

They will be easy to control and will not look at his proposals from principle but from how it affects them and who will be on the new JNC. It is crucial that TGWU branches within BL Cars and shop stewards committees press for Hawley to be responsible to a fully representative delegate conference on this issue.

Both the Assembly Plant and the Body Plant in Cowley have called for the conference to be on a delegate basis and based on the size of the TGWU membership in the plant.

20% NOW!

Below is a leaflet distributed at the gates of the Cowley BL plants on September 8, 1980. It argues the case for the 20% claim.

The government is complaining that wage increases this year have averaged 22½%. BL workers will be painfully aware that they only received 5% during this period. But this is not the first time BL workers have ended up at the bottom of the scale. It has happened year after year. The result of this has been staggering.

In 1973 the wage for a production worker in Cowley Assembly was roughly £50.00. The national average wage according to government figures that year was £40.00. Now, seven years later, the wage of a grade 3 production worker is £88.00, while the government figure for national average wage is £122. BL workers have gone from £10.00 above the national average to £34.00 behind in just seven years. At the same time working conditions have worsened. The 80% layoff pay given as a carrot when MDW came in is gone, and many protective agreements have been eroded.

There are now 2 million unemployed. Mrs Thatcher claims that unemployment is due to wage increases. Workers, she says, “are pricing themselves out of their jobs”! Are BL workers pricing themselves out of a job? BL has lost 20,000 jobs this year and are busy closing down 13 plants. It is hard to see how that is due to a 5% pay settlement, which with 20% inflation is a 15% pay cut.

There is little doubt that Michael Edwardes will offer a single figure wage increase again this year. It will be “tell me the old old story”. BL, he will say, is not profitable. Where will the money come from, he will ask. Is not half a loaf better than none? But BL workers have been blackmailed into having half a loaf so many times, they will soon have no loaf at all.

This time enough is enough. A stand must be made and a decent increase won whatever the threats he comes out with. How do shop floor workers know the state of the Company anyway? Edwardes holds all the crucial information in his hands. He won’t make it available so that the true picture can be revealed; he uses it to his own advantage. What did Edwardes do just before the crunch on the last review? He created a crisis; declared he was massively overstocked, when he wasn’t; laid everybody off for a month; cut the programme and made 600 people VR. As soon as the 5% was accepted, he put everyone back on full time, put the Maxi schedule back up, and started recruiting labour!

It is true that the present recession is very real and very deep. If the hundred and one rumours of the past week are anything to go by, then further cuts involving either short time or a labour pool will be announced in the next few days. But Edwardes will ensure that the situation will be synchronised with the pay negotiations, and used to blackmail BL workers into accepting a single figure pay settlement – just as it was last year.

This time the answer must be No! Let’s look at the real facts of the case. BL is paying £70 million to the banks every year in interest on loans of so-called taxpayers’ money. Barclay / Westminster made over £500 million profit last year. Distributors take 30%. The Sunday Observer showed how you could buy a car on the continent, have a week’s holiday to buy it, change the steering, pay the import duty and still save money on the deal – because dealers there take only 10%. All these things need looking into and this can only be done if the books are available.

But what if BL are making a loss at this point? Are BL workers not entitled to a living wage? BL workers have had 15% in their last 3 pay increases – the police have had 90% in their last rises (and the army not much less). How much profit do the police make? Are they viable? The fact is they are paying them the increases because they may have to be used against factory workers trying to get a decent wage. The MPs voted themselves a pay increase of 25% – how much profit do they make? BL workers are not the cause of the crisis and they should not be made to pay for it. They are not responsible for the world-wide recession, or the policies of the Tory government which have made things even worse, or for the disastrous policy of Michael Edwardes in BL. He has concentrated all power in his own hands and consults no-one. The shop floor have no influence whatsoever over management policy; they are just expected to carry the can.

BL workers must stop looking over their shoulder at the problems of the management and start defending their own interests. Never mind the Company’s cash flow; BL workers have a cash flow problem as well! Never mind the “viability” of BL; BL wages are not “viable” to live on. Edwardes says be responsible, consider the Company’s interests and the Company will look after yours! But look at MG Abingdon. No strike since the second world war and ruthlessly closed down without consultation. Edwardes even rubbed it in by announcing the closure the day after they had celebrated 50 years of MG production in a management-organised parade through Abingdon and local managers had drunk toasts with workers to “the next 50 years ”.

No, weakness will not solve the problem of a living wage in BL. Only strength will secure a 20% increase and only strength can answer Edwardes if he threatens to close down BL as soon as he is challenged. The blackmail has to stop. So long as he gets away with it, the blackmail will go on.

Edwardes is likely to use the bonus con-trick again. Remember the Company propaganda in March? Big charts showing the basic rate; then how much you would get with a maximum £15.00 bonus; and then how much you would get on nights with £15.00 bonus plus night shift allowance. Since then, the bonus has been zero and the night-shift abolished.

But if the 20% is going to be achieved, there will have to be a determined stand against Edwardes. The present contract runs out on November 1st. Action must be taken from November 2nd if there is no agreement by then. Letting it drift on after the review date always gives the Company the advantage. It makes it look as if the unions are not serious and it builds up back pay which is used as a carrot by the management.

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