By Clifford Webb Midland Industrial Correspondent
The Transport and General Workers’ Union has exonerated Mr Alan Thornett, the man at the centre of the strike at British Leyland’s Cowley plant last. month, finding no justification for the company’s allegations against him. But it has changed the system under which union officials like Mr Thornett. are elected at the plant.
The refusal of British Leyland to recognize Mr Thornett’s credenials as a deputy senior shop, steward in the transport section led to an 18-day strike by 150 transport drivers. It cost the company about £17m in lost production; 12,000 workerswere laid of. A report, by a team of six, was presented to the’ unions Midland regional committee yesterday. Mr Brian Mathers, the regional secretary, said it had been accepted by 24 votes to one, with-one abstention.
Two significant changes in the union structure at Cowley were proposed by the team. The main one, that senior shop stewards and their deputies should not be elected by the shop stewards’ body but by a ballot of all the membership, is designed to break the self- perpetuating authority of such officials. The other’ proposed change that a new branch of the union should be set up for the Cowley assembly shops only, would enable officials and members to keep more closely in touch with more parochial issues.
Mr Mathers said the report did not specifically call for Mr Thornett’s reinstatement as a shop steward because “that matter is being dealt with by the union’s national executive “‘ But it reinforced the union’s view that he should be reinstated.
British Leyland said last that it had not been invited to present evidence to the inquiry and had not yet had the opportunity to see the report (our Labour. Staff writes).”In the meantime, from what we have been told, we are surprised at the unitlateral way in which the union has reached its conclusions”, the company said.