By R. W. SHAKESPEARE and ALEX HENDRY
Shop stewards of the British Leyland factories in Lancashire, where there are fears of a renewed strike by 8,500 workers, were last night asked for an immediate meeting by the executive of the Amalgamated Union of Engineering and Foundry Workers. The A.E.F. executive also insisted that the Leyland stewards should call off the mass meeting arranged for today.
The union president, Hugh Scanlon. said: “The executive are requesting an immediate meeting with the shop stewards to be followed by an immediate meeting with the employers.”
Mr Scanlon added that the executive had not made any judgement on the case. The employers are understood to have indicated they will make themselves available for a meeting with the A.E.F. executive. More than 18 hours of continuous talks between union representatives and management at York yesterday ended in deadlock. and there seemed little hope of averting another shutdown at the Leyland and Chorley plants.
A mass meeting was called for this afternoon and the men were expected solidly to favour a renewed strike and expect support from their unions. The slim chance of avoiding another shutdown hung on an appeal from Pat Lowry, director of the Engineering Employers Federation. He said after talks broke down he had urged shop stewards from the Leyland and Chorley factories to persuade their members to stay at work. He immediately tried to arrange another meeting with union leaders. The marathon negotiations began on Wednesday evening, lasting through the night and finally breaking up after 1 p.m. yesterday.
Unions and management were deadlocked on one main issue, the interpretation of the agreement reached last week that brought the Leyland men back to work on Monday. Management claimed a deal on improved piecework rates applied only to new work. Shop stewards maintained they understood the higher rates would apply to all work and refused to settle for anything less.
Len Brindle, senior works convener at Leyland, who took part in the negotiations, only managed to avoid a vote for an immediate strike earlier this week by giving an assurance he would seek to get the men’s demands met at fresh talks. When he and other local officials left York yesterday they were very angry men.