90,000 BL workers to get copies of ‘ultimatum’
By Clifford Webb
British Leyland’s Nuffield Press subsidiary yesterday began rushing out 90,000 copies of the management’s 85-page “ultimatum” to the unions, one for each worker. It demands full acceptance of sweeping changes in established working practices in return for a five per cent wage increase plus a self-financing incentive scheme which could provide another £15 a week.
The huge print job will take three days and it is being undertaken at the request of the unions. It is not a management attempt to bypass the official negotiating machinery. But the demands are so controversial and detailed that one union official yesterday described them as “‘an attempt to introduce an employers’ utopia “.
The management says simply: “It is now a question of survival. We have run out of time for pussyfooting about. We must have a minimum 20 per cent increase in productivity from our factories.”
British Leyland wants to sweep away all demarcation problems by introducing full mobility of labour in an industry where each worker and each union has zealously guarded clearly defined trade boundaries. It goes even further by calling for new maintenance methods, including the elimination of trade demarcations and the amalgamation of related trades. The intention is to introduce an all-round maintenance specialist similar to those employed in Continental factories.
It is the prelude to the substitution of preventive maintenance for curative maintenance, a change which is said to be imperative in the new, highly automated Mini Metro shop at Longbridge. BL is also demanding an end to the time-honoured attitude to overtime working-“-one in, all in “. It says the management must be trusted to allocate overtime on a fair basis. It wants access at all times for its industrial engineers to set work standards and manning levels.
But it also offers to train some shop stewards in basic industrial engineering techniques so that they will know what is going on. The sweeping nature of the demands has surprised even those shop stewards who had been predicting further management assaults on wage negotiations, their traditional power base, after the recent seven-to- one vote by BL workers in favour of the latest recovery plan. But they have hit back by insisting that BL should send a copy of the bulky document to every worker.