On this day in auto history - November 27th

Fri 27th Nov 2020

It was on this day in 1979 that controversial trade unionist Derek Robinson - the man behind over 500 car factory strikes - was finally dismissed as a shop steward at British Leyland's Longbridge plant.

Vilified by the British media as 'Red Robbo', Robinson - a Communist Party member - was dismissed by BL’s chairman Michael Edwardes for signing a pamphlet criticising BL management over 25,000 job cuts. Edwardes labelled him an “insidious influence” whilst newly-elected Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher considered him a “notorious agitator”.

In just a 30-month period, Robinson led 523 walkouts at more than 40 plants operated by British Leyland which management later claimed delayed production in more than 62,000 cars and 113,000 engines, costing the business an estimated £200 million.

But, surprisingly, a motion for a strike in favour of reinstating Robinson was overwhelmingly rejected by workers with 14,000 votes ‘against’ to just 600 in favour.

Following his dismissal, Robinson slipped out of public view as he worked as a tutor in trade union studies. He died in 2017 aged 90.