By Clifford Webb Midland Industrial Correspondent
More than 6,000 British Leyland car workers were laid off last night as a further strike added to the production chaos caused by disputes in the first week of a critical year for the industry. Industry leaders have given a warning that their factories must have a strike free year if they are to produce the record number of cars necessary to meet the market forecasts of 1.45m new car registrations, nearly 200,000 more than in 1971.
Car importers are waiting to snap up any shortfall in British manufacturers’ deliveries. The Longbridge, Birmingham, plant of Austin/Morris is again going through a series of pay strikes by small groups of men which cause widespread lay offs. Yesterday 200 engine inspectors walked out in protest at being laid off on Tuesday when 200 engine machinists’ were on strike. The machinists returned to work yesterday but the inspectors walked out two hours later.
As a result the company laid off 1,200 engine workers and 2,000 men on the Mini assembly line which was at a standstill. Underlying the present unrest at Longbridge is the approaching confrontation over the company’s intention to replace piecework pay by a flat daily rate. Last night the 200 striking engine inspectors were asked to return today so that talks could take place between their shop stewards and the management.
All Jaguar car production has been halted since Friday following a strike by 200 engine workers, Some of the strikers returned to work on Tuesday but the majority are still out. They were expected to hold a meeting today. A further 2,500 workers are laid off.
About 120 packers at the Austin-Morris export packing factory at Cowley, Oxford, were on strike for a second day yesterday and a further 175 are laid off. The packers are expected back today, but according to their spokesman, they will ban all overtime and cooperation until their pay claim is met.