By Clifford Webb Midland Industrial Correspondent
The effect of the two day old sit-in by 2,000 workers who have been suspended at British Leyland’s car bodv plant at Cowley near Oxford, is spreading to other plants in the group. More than 10,000 employees could be idle by the weekend as Longbridge, Swindon and Lanelli are forced to cut back production of engines and other components supplied to Cowley.
The main issue is the company’s determination to break once and for all the bod men’s insistence on being treated separately from men in the adjoining assembly plant. This has been a continuing irritant with wage rates leapfrogging between one and the other. A powerful factor on the company side is the 4.000 men in the assembly plant who have already accepted its £44.20 a week offer. Because of their colleagues’ intransigence these men have been laid off without pay until further notice. Guaranteed layoff payments are withheld when production is disrupted by disputes within the company.
On the other hand management has weakened its case for a single wage structure for all direct workers in the Cowley complex by continuing to conduct separate negotiations, a throwback to the days when they were separate companies, Pressed Steel Fisher and Morris Motors. The 2,000 body men are obeying the instructions of the Transport and General Workers’ Union to report for work daily but to maintain sanctions which have cut production by 50 per cent until the company improves its offer.
On Monday they were paid the full rate from the starting time of 7.15 am until they were suspended at 10 am. Yesterday, however, the company made it clear that no further payments would be made for any period during which sanctions were maintained. Mr David Simpson, director of the body plant, said a union statement that the men were ready and willing to work really meant that they were ready and willing to work at half speed for full pay.
This was clearly unacceptable. He added that there was no possibility of the management improving its offer.
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