From Clifford Webb
Mr Harold Musgrove, chairman of BL’s Austin Morris’ operation, said last night that the six-day-old strike at the company’s Longbridge plant could destroy its mass production factories within days at the cost of 50,000 jobs. The dispute was already seriously jeopardizing BL’s request for additional government funds, reported to total £1,200m over the next two years.
His warning came after the breakdown of talks yesterday and the decision of the Transport and General Workers’ Union’s Midland section to recommend that the strike, which has stopped all Metro and Mini production, should be made official. The strike by 1,500 assembly workers has led to another 4,500 being laid off and has cost the production of nearly £18m of cars at showroom prices. Letters will be sent to the strikers warning them that unless they return to work on January 5, when Longbridge resumes after the holidays, they will be deemed to have dismissed themselves.
Mr Musgrove said that if the strikers were dismissed every attempt would be made to resume Metro production by switching other Longbridge workers to the assembly line and recruiting new labour. He said it was a tragedy that the Metro, the most successful British car for a long time and one that now holds’ nearly a tenth of the British market, was being hamstrung by a strike that should never have taken place.
Mr Geoffrev Armstrong, BL Cars director of employee relations, said: “We do not have unlimited resources. We cannot stand a protracted dispute and quite simply we shall run out of money………The Metro is very important to the future of the whole company and we cannot survive and succeed without the Metro being produced.”
He said that during the day long talks in Birmingham under the guidance of the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service the’ company had offered to hold a joint investigation with the unions into the evidence that had led management to dismiss eight employees for gross misconduct on November 21. He had also been prepared for Acas to provide’ a neutral chairman for the inquiry. The unions, however had stuck to their demands for an inquiry by an independent third party. That was not acceptable to BL.
Mr Brian Mathers, the TGWU regional secretary, said: “A recommendation that the strike should be made official will be in the post to Moss Evans, our general secretary, tonight. I think it is a great pity that the dispute will damage the Metro. But we tried hard to find a solution.”
At a press conference later, the company said that the damage done during the near riot on November 21 was much more extensive than previously reported.
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