By GEOFFREY WHITELEY,
Northern Labour Correspondent
Three weeks of industrial strife at British Leyland plants in the Midlands ended yesterday on the eve of the Birmingham meeting which could prove crucial to the future of labour relations in the group. Leaders of the main car unions are to meet the unofficial shop-stewards committee, which claims to represent 186,000 workers at Leyland plants in England, Scotland, and Wales.
One purpose of the meeting is to discuss criticisms of labour relations and trade union behaviour made by Lord Stokes, the chairman of BLMC, at the group’s annual meeting.
The shop stewards are also expected to press for official union recognition of their committee. One of their spokesmen has already said the attendance of national union leaders implies recognition of the organisation.
At Longbridge, the main assembly plant of BLMC’s Austin-Morris division , production resumed yesterday on 1100 and 1300 models. Output has been stopped three times in the last two weeks because of a strike by 200 assembly workers over pay. The strikers returned to work to allow talks to be held and 800 other workers who had been laid off were recalled.
Production also returned to normal last night at the Austin- Morris plant at Cowley, which has been virtually at a standstill for three weeks because of an unofficial strike by 126 electricians. They, too, agreed to resume work to aliow negotiations to take place. The dispute made 4,000 workers idle, and cost BLMC a production loss of 10,000 cars.
An explosion closed a section of the Morris factory at Llanelli, Carmarthen, yesterday. No one was hurt, but some workers were treated for shock. More than 200 of the 2,600 employees were sent home and told to report back tomorrow. The explosion occurred in the gas welding department, and specialists were brought from Cardiff and London to examine the equipment. The department was closed last Wednesday when 800 were laid off for two days because of strikes in the Midlands. The Llanelli factory produces radiators and other components.