R. W. Shakespeare
As British Leyland management began two days of talks yesterday with shop floor representatives about the financial crisis which led to government . intervention, the company’s labour relations problems, which are again causing massive output losses, took another worrying turn.
A meeting of the 1,000 strikers at the Triumph car plants in Coventry voted to continue their stoppage in support of demands for lay-off pay for time which they lost during the recent strike by control room staff at their plant. All car production is halted with losses totalling nearly £20m worth of vehicles over the past four weeks, and another 8,000 workers in Coventry, Birmingham and Liverpool have been made idle. After yesterday’s meeting, shop stewards were predicting a protracted dispute and said that comprehensive picketing of all plants would begin.
Mr Eddie McGarry, union convener at Rover-Triumph, expressed surprise that. the company had made no fresh moves to settle the dispute in view of ‘”the startling moves over the weekend'”.
The stewards had “rightly” taken a decision they must ” sit back and wait for the company to come forward with something”?,
he said. British Leyland has rejected the claim for lay-off pay which would mean about £44 a week ,for each worker, because its agreements with the car unions specifically rule out these payments when men are made idle by strikes within their own plant. British Leyland faces yet another threat to production in one of its engines factories in Coventry, where the jobs of 4500 production workers are at risk because of industrial action by transport drivers working for an independent contractor.
This has meant that no completed. engines can leave the plant and they,are being stockpiled. The two-day meeting between management and shop floor representatives which began yesterday at the Austin-Morris plant at Longbridge, Birmingham provides the first opportunity for consultation since it was revealed last week that British Leyland’s financial plight had forced it to go to the Government. for help. This will almost certainly result in some degree of state control.
Malcolm Brown writes:
In London last night Sir Don Ryder, the new Cabinet Adviser on Industry, estimated that it would take about three months to prepare a full report on British Leyland, although there would be earlier interim reports. He has been asked by Mr Anthony Wedgwood Benn, Secretary of State for Industry, to prepare the report to help determine the size of state investment in the group. Sir Don spent the day clearing up his affairs at Reed International, of which he was chairman and chief executive. Today he will move into the Cabinet Office.
Lord Stokes, chairman of British Leyland, and Mr John Barber, the group’s managing director, were involved in a series of internal meetings at the group’s London headquarters during the day. Following the visit of Mr Barber to Spain over the weekend in an effort to sort out the delay in selling its Spanish operation to General Motors in a £28m deal, British Leyland said concern had been conveyed to the Spanish Prime Minister.
A call for a form of worker participation to be introduced at British Leyland if public money is injected into the company was made yesterday by nearly 100 Labour MPs, who signed a Commons motion which also urged that any financial support should also be on the basis of public participation.