From Our Correspondent
OXFORD, AUG. 9
Attitudes hardened today towards the strike at Morris Motors, Cowley, over the dismissal of a chief shop steward, Mr Frank Horsman, of the Transport and General Workers’ Union.
Eleven of the 12 unions at the plant, accounting for about 4,000 of the 6,000 production workers, decided to continue, or in some cases join, the strike which was interrupted by the works holidays a fortnight ago. Key electricians, draughtsmen, and woodworkers among others are now officially committed to strike action. Only the Amalgamated Engineering Union are standing out at the moment.
An urgent appeal has been sent to their executive council by the other unions to expedite a decision. The A.E.U. shop stewards at the factory have also asked the council to instruct them to join the strike. After a meeting of shop stewards of the 11 unions here today, Mr J. Jones, regional secretary of the Transport and General Workers’ Union, made it clear that they were “gravely disturbed ” at the British Motor Corporation’s attitude towards a shop steward who was carrying out his duties as he saw them. The management said that they had dismissed Mr Horsman for instructing men to stop work on July 14. Later, they said that he had been dismissed because of ” a continuous and deliberate policy of obstruction, insubordination and insolence over a period of many years.”
Mr. Jones contended that Mr. Horsman’s employment should never have been put in jeopardy because of his activities as a shop steward. This was the crux of the issue.
“If the management will give him back his job we will negotiate. We would then be prepared to talk about his position as chief shop steward.”
The possibility of the management reinstating Mr Horsman is remote. Mr Jones said that a suggestion of this nature made by his general secretary, Mr Frank Cousins, had already been rejected by the British Motor Corporation, who at top level had said that Mr Horsman would never again get a job with the corporation. Mr Jones denied a report that it was his union’s intention to spread the strike to the Midlands to cripple the B.M.C.
But his colleague, Mr L. Kealey, T.G.W.U. national secretary of the engineering group, said: “We are satisfied that there will be no more production at Morris Motors until the strike is over.”
This in itself would mean that thousands of Midland car workers would have to be laid off during the coming week. Before the holidays 2,000 were sent home and the number is likely to increase rapidly if Morris Motors is brought to a standstill.