Archive : B.M.C. Strikers Ordered Back


The executive of the Amalgamated Engineering Union decided today to order their members on unofficial strike at the British Motor Corporation’s tractor and transmission branch at Ward End to return to work immediately. This step brings the full weight of union authority to reinforce the advice union officials have been giving the men since the stoppage began last week.

Mr F. W. Crowder, district secretary of the A.E.U., said he would pass on the executive’s instructions to the men at their meeting tomorrow. The failure of supplies of differential and suspension components from Ward End brought the Austin Seven production line at Longbridge to a standstill at noon today and 2,0O0 men were sent home. Production of the Morris version of the new B.M.C. small car, the Mini-Minor, will continue at Cowley until tomorrow, but the 500 workers engaged on the new model there will have to be laid off then.

About 500 workers at the Fisher and Ludlow body building factory at Erdington will be similarly affected. Union officials will need all the powers of persuasion at their command to convince the strikers tomorrow that their interests will be best served by a return to work. Even though the management have repeatedly expressed their readiness to discuss the men’s pay demands once production is resumed, the men would regard the ending of the stoppage without a firm offer from the company as in their own words, “packing in.”

Some resentment has been aroused among men on strike by the B.M.C.’s reference to their demands as “blackmail.” The men claim first that their claim for an increase in the hourly rate is a reasonable one (“We are not asking for the moon, only for a tanner,” one said), and secondly that it is unrealistic to condemn them for refusing to take it through the formal negotiating procedure of the engineering industry. A dispute over interim day work rates on a new model, they say, is an immediate problem that affects their earnings now.

Speaking at a luncheon in London yesterday held to introduce two new Rover cars ( Rover 80, 100, 105), Mr L. G. T. Farmer, joint managing director of the Rover Company, said that workers needed “enlightened self-discipline.”

Referring to what he described as a small nucleus of men holding up production “of the exciting new small cars from B.M.C.,”
he said: “I think this is a frightening state of affairs. When a man had a small wage packet he could exercise self-discipline in what he smoked and drank. I would suggest it is essential nationally that in times of prosperity We should similarly-indulge in enlightened self-discipline.

I believe this problem is as much a problem with unions as with employers. Throughout the troubles we have had in the past six months union officials at all times have played the game. I believe the time has come when a sensible bargain could be made with unions on the matter of secret ballot and provisions for union meetings in workshops, and I believe they should accept that unofficial stoppages should be illegal.”

Production was normal yesterday at the B.M.C. factory at Llanelly, Carmarthenshire, where 98 maintenance men have been on strike since Monday.

Keith Adams

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