Junior members of the HR team at steel company Corus played a key role in cutting senior management positions after British Steel and Dutch aluminium giant Koninklijke Hoogovens merged.
After the merger was announced in October 1999, these junior staff helped in supporting the redundancy process and to develop HR policies for the merged company, including a health and safety policy.
The company had to reduce the number of its senior managers from 800 to 500 by the end of December.
"This did not go down well with some of the senior HR people in the business.
"But they were candidates for some of the roles and I could not use them," he said.
Johnston said that if British Steel had not merged the 6,050 UK redundancies that the company confirmed this month would have happened a year ago.
Johnston said he was involved in the merger process the day after the chief executives of the two companies had made the decision to join forces.
"A lot of difficult decisions had to be made. We decided to do it fast. We probably got 95 per cent of appointments right and five per wrong. Getting 95 per cent right fast is better than getting 98 per cent slow."