Examination of Witnesses (Questions 220
WEDNESDAY 2 MAY 2001
220. As we began to explore last time, the best
way of having meaningful consultation with your workforce is to
share information with them.
(Sir Brian Moffat) We do share information with them.
Our workforce know our high cost plants and our low cost plants.
You have not heard any disagreement about that from our workforce;
they know that.
221. You have not told them the options you
spent all this time from December considering. You have just told
us that you have not told them. You told us on 1 March that you
have not told them.
(Sir Brian Moffat) I did not say that. You asked whether
I had given them a lot more detail about the options and I said
I had not because of the methodology we adopted. There was not
a lot more detail to give. You raised the question last time about
profitability by plant.
222. That was in a different section of the
(Sir Brian Moffat) It is not profitability by plant,
it is profitability of the total business.
223. We are not talking about profitability.
I am talking about consultation now. I did ask you about profitability
but that was in a completely different section of the session.
What about consultation?
(Sir Brian Moffat) Our workers know about where their
high costs are, where their low costs are, who are better than
they, who are not, which plant in the UK has a lower cost than
they have and therefore for those plants affected unfortunately
it was not a great surprise, it just confirmed their worst fears.
224. It took you three months to consider all
these different options and the information behind them and yet
there is not anything significant enough there to share with the
representatives of your workforce. It does not really make sense,
(Sir Brian Moffat) I am sorry but you are twisting
words. We did share the information very thoroughly with the workforce.
What we did not go into were lots and lots of different options
because there were none. There were not lots and lots of different
options, there were minimal numbers of different options.
225. You told us last time that you did not
even share those options and you are telling us again now that
you have not added to what you told them, so you have not really
taken this consultation seriously, have you?
(Sir Brian Moffat) We have taken it very seriously.
226. Mr Pedder, you have been quoted in the
press as saying that the Joint Trade Union Alternative Proposal
wasand I quote you"not a viable alternative
[to Corus's proposed restructuring] because of long-term change
in the UK marketplace". Is this your view and if this is
your view, could you explain to us why?
(Mr Pedder) I have been to every plant and I have
discussed the individual submissions which form the background
to that particular document with the representatives at each location.
What I actually did was go to the plant and made sure that the
management and the trade union representatives had a full and
open discussion of the issues, of those proposals, of the management's
counter ideas, of the reasons why the management did not think
certain proposals would work and ensured that dialogue was very
full and very frank and I hope that those people who were in the
meetings would agree that I ensured that no questions were left,
at the end of the meeting, which had not been answered. Clearly
there were differences of view as to some of the numbers which
were quoted, but at plant after plant we went through the counter
proposals, the management's reasons why in their view those counter
proposals did not work. I then took time to evaluate the discussion,
came back to the meeting and explained in each case, in each location,
why those situations would not work. I can go through it location
by location. There are different reasons but we were looking at
the totality and there were some instances where the proposals
from one location would impinge on another and I was able to explain
that. That was the reason why at the national level it was agreed
that I would go to each location, one person, so that we had the
consistency going round.
227. Do you think it would have been a good
idea if Sir Brian had gone to any of them?
(Mr Pedder) I think it was handled very adequately.
It is up to others to say they felt I did not handle it adequately,
but I felt I did.
228. But you are quoted as rejecting these proposals.
You did say they were "not a viable alternative" to
your own proposals.
(Mr Pedder) That is absolutely correct. I went to
each location, I listened very carefully.
229. Were you given a free hand by Sir Brian
or were you told this was what you must do?
(Mr Pedder) I went to each location. I listened very
carefully to the discussions. I ensured the discussion was full
and frank and I gave a verdict, my verdict on what the outcome
230. You did not go there with a blinkered view,
with Sir Brian's instructions.
(Mr Pedder) I did not go there with a blinkered view.
231. In principle, do you think that there could
be any viable alternative to your own proposals?
(Mr Pedder) I do not believe so.
232. You do not.
(Mr Pedder) I do not.
233. Therefore am I right that you said these
are not viable and did you go there with a set view?
(Mr Pedder) May I finish the sentence?
234. I am linking my two questions.
(Mr Pedder) I particularly do not think so, having
gone to each location, having joined in the discussion with all
the people concerned, having heard the various alternatives. Having
been able to talk in every location and see the linkages between
the proposals we had and the counter proposals, I am even more
of the view that there was no counter proposal which would have
moved us forward as a company to the extent that we needed to
and therefore the totality of that and the individual parts of
that were not a viable alternative.
235. Are you telling us that there is nothing
in this document which is worth considering?
(Mr Pedder) It has been worth considering and I have
looked very carefully at it. A lot of effort has gone into that
and I appreciate that very much. When we have had the discussions
it has not proved viable as an alternative to the proposals we
put forward on 1 February.
236. Have you costed this document? What finance
would it require and what losses did you project would be generated?
(Mr Pedder) I have not costed it as a totality. I
have heard the arguments at each location and there are different
cost negatives at each location following each proposal. I have
not added them up.
237. What is your best estimate of what it would
(Mr Pedder) I would have to come back to you on that,
but it is a significant difference.
238. Can you estimate how many hours you spent
considering this document with members?
(Mr Pedder) I have not added up the number of hours,
but I spent a considerable amount of time on the individual proposals,
on the individual meetings, on reviewing the document and thinking
about it. I cannot give you a total number of hours, but considerable.
(Sir Brian Moffat) It was most of April, judged from
my diary here of events. Mr Pedder started in Ebbw Vale at the
beginning of April and finished at Llanwern on 19 April.
239. Can you remind us how many of your team
went along to conduct these discussions?
(Mr Pedder) It varied by location. I went on my own
in the main with the management team in each location and it would
vary by location and with a representative trade union body as
they chose to field it. In Llanwern they fielded the whole slim
line team, in other locations it was a smaller group. It was up
to them to choose who they wanted to go to those meetings and
in each location it was up to the management. I said that they
must bring the managing director and whoever else was present
at the earlier discussions. My job there, and I wanted it to be
very clear, was to facilitate a very open discussion and then
to form a view. I sat separate from either of the two parties
and made sure that all questions came on the table and nobody
was inhibited in asking them or saying anything.