Select Committee on Welsh Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 220 - 239)



  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 questioning.
  (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, does it?
  (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.

Mrs Williams

  226. Mr Pedder, you have been quoted in the press as saying that the Joint Trade Union Alternative Proposal was—and 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.

Mr Edwards

  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.

Mrs Williams

  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 was.

  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.

Mr Paterson

  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 lose?
  (Mr Pedder) I would have to come back to you on that, but it is a significant difference.

Mrs Williams

  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.

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