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New Left Review I/129, September-October 1981


Raghib Ahsan

Solihull: Death of a Car Factory

Nationally and internationally the motor industry has been catastrophically affected by the present recession. [*] With thanks to Alix Holt for her assistance. There have been massive layoffs, plant closures and redundancies with little resistance by the workforce. In Britain in the late sixties and early seventies, the workers at British Leyland were considered very militant and their wages were well above the national average. But in the last three years they have seen their pay packet fall below average while their powerful shop stewards movement has suffered a series of major setbacks. In the same period 57,000 jobs have been lost without effective resistance and Michael Edwardes, chairman of British Leyland, has recently announced that 1,000 jobs per month will be axed for the next two years. Indeed, Edwardes has warned that if bl is not at least breaking even by 1983–84 he will simply shut it down. At the same time the Tories have been keen to advertise Edwardes’s style of management as the epitome of the proper way to take in hand the restructuring of British capitalism. Other leading uk employers like gkn, Allied Breweries and Lucas have already adopted similar strategies of using closures and mass redundancies to ‘thin out’ the workforce (especially the militants) while intimidating the survivors into quiescence and higher productivity.

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