Austin union chiefs pull back from showdown
By David Felton and Clifford Webb
Union leaders. last night appeared. to be pulling back from a legal confrontation over the pay strike by 25,000 Austin Rover workers after the second- largest union declared the dispute unofficial.
The decision by the executive of the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers, called into emergency session yesterday to disown the display of defiance by shop stewards and local officials earlier in the day seeking to continue the strike, caused problems for the more militant Transport and General Workers’ Union, which is the largest at the company. It was not clear what attitude the union would adopt but it is unlikely to be represented at a High Court hearing today when Austin Rover will inform the court that six unions had refused to obey an order to call off the strikes by 6pm on Tuesday.
The AUEW decision was taken after the electricians’ union ordered its 800 members back to work. It did so because its policy is not to oppose the 1984 Trades Union Act under which Austin Rover has brought the action. Mr Eric Hammond, general secretary of the Electrical, Electronic, Telecommunications’ and Plumbing Union, will appear in the High Court today to emphasize the union’s willingness to cooperate with the court.
Affidavits sworn by Mr Terry Duffy, president of the AUEW and Mr Ken Cure, the executive member responsible for the motor industry, will be read to the court. Austin Rover won an order in the High Court on Monday that the strike which started on Monday, should be. called off until a ballot of the 28,000 members had been held.
When news of the union split reached pickets at Longbridge, the biggest plant in the group, there were angry shouts of “let them try. Nobody goes in until we get more money”.
Earlier in the day Mr Cure had been chased through the streets of Coventry by strikers who had travelled from Cowley to picket the meeting.