Anger as receivers sack 1,600 at Leyland DAF

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LEYLAND DAF workers lined up like 'lambs to the slaughter' yesterday as the receivers of the stricken truck and van manufacturer issued redundancy notices to 1,635 employees and the threat of strike action fizzled out almost before the counting of ballot papers had finished.

There were emotional scenes at all five Leyland DAF plants as workers were pulled off production lines or told to go to the factory canteen to learn their fate.

Although the workforce of 5,500 had been bracing itself for the grim news for days, there was still shock, anger and resentment as the details of the redundancy programme were announced.

The Leyland truck plant in Lancashire and the Birmingham van plant bore the brunt of the cuts with 768 and 589 redundancies respectively.

Elsewhere, 67 jobs are going at the Albion axle works in Glasgow, 136 at the parts warehouse in Chorley and 75 at the sales and marketing centre in Thame, Oxfordshire.

The receivers, John Talbot and Murdoch McKillop of Arthur Andersen, pledged last night that they had no plans for further redundancies, although Leyland DAF's unions fear that yesterday's cuts may be just the first phase.

'This has been a very painful decision,' Mr McKillop said. 'These redundancies are necessary if we are to maintain the business and carry on trading as a viable operation.'

Nowhere was the pain felt more acutely than on the production lines. Craig Bull, an assembly line worker in his twenties at the Birmingham van plant, said: 'I am absolutely gutted. We were just like lambs to the slaughter.'

Edward Sutton, 55, a track worker for 13 years, said: 'We have been treated just like animals. We have not even been told how they chose who goes and who stays.'

At Leyland, the works convener Derek Bullen said: 'There is a lot of emotion in the factory today. Grown men crying. It is upsetting the callous way it has happened, with people virtually being given 10 minutes' notice prior to the shift ending. It is terrible.'

Fifty-four year old Michael Smyth walked out from the factory clutching a brown envelope containing his redundancy notice in one hand and a white canvas bag in the other. 'I've got my shoes, my brew and my teacup here. That's all after 22 years,' he said.

Although the 500-strong workforce in Glasgow voted two to one for strike action in protest at the job losses, the 2,000 workers at Leyland voted against by a margin of four to one.

The result from Birmingham will not be known until Monday but is thought to have rejected industrial action decisively .

Michael Heseltine, President of the Board of Trade, praised the 'immensely sensible' workforce at Leyland for voting against a strike but repeated that there was no possibility of government intervention.

'Everybody has very great sympathy with people who have lost their jobs in those circumstances,' he said. 'What I think is now important is that the receivers must be given every opportunity to see what way forward they can find.'

(Photograph omitted)