Another 4,500 defy Austin picket lines
By Clifford Webb The tough stance adopted by Mr Harold Musgrove, the chief executive of Austin Rover, is having its desired effect. Faced by his refusal to increase the, company’s pay offer and his use of the courts, another 4,500 workers crossed union picket lines yesterday at the key Longbridge and Cowley car assembly plants. Last night more than 15,000 of the company’s 28,000 manual workers were back at work and 11 of the 14 plants were working normally.
The biggest breakthrough came at Longbridge where 3,200 workers, nearly half the day shift, returned allowing reduced production to resume on Metro and Rover 200 assembly lines together with engine building in the east works.
About 1,300 day shift workers returned at Cowley including 550 members of the Amalgamated Union of Engineers Workers (AUEW) who had voted to return at a mass meeting last Friday. Restricted production of Maestros started for the first time since the strike began a fortnight ago.
An Austin Rover spokesman said last night: “The strike is crumbling. We shall have over 15,000 back before tonight is out. They include about 5,000 AUEW members, and about the same number of transport union members.”
But union leaders pointed out last night that modern car assembly plants cannot run efficiently if one cog is missing. A shop steward picket at Longbridge said: “If only a few hundred workers stay out it will cost the company a fortune to make every single motor car. They cannot keep doing that for long and despite what the company claims they are only playing at making cars until we all go back.”
British Leyland started to run down its Bathgate truck factory, at west Lothian, yesterday. The plant is to close in 1986. Axle assembly was transferred to the company’s Albion works at Scotstoun, Glasgow.