The 3,250 production workers at the British Leyland truck and tractor plant at Bathgate, West Lothian, yesterday voted unanimously to accept a £4 a week pay rise. They return to work on Monday after an eight week strike. The dispute cost the company £8m in lost output and £800,000 in real money, Mr Raymond Smart, director and general manager, said.
A union official told the men that if they accepted the increase they would become the highest paid workers in Britain’s bus, truck and tractor factories. Mr John Boyd, Scottish executive officer of the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers. gave details of the new wage rates. He compared them with wage rates at other British Leyland bus and truck division plants and at Ford and Vauxhall.
The men have demanded that they should eventually get the same wages as British Leyland workers in the car factory at Cowley, Oxford. Last year, by the introduction of measured day work to replace piece rates, the Cowley men were given £40 for 40 hours’ work. This annoyed the Bathgate workers who were on measured day work. Mr Boyd said yesterday that the company had always refused parity with Cowley as Bathgate had never made a profit.
He said the car assembly and car engine works at Cowley made the main profits for BLMC. The company had said they have no indications from the unions that in the areas where profits were made they would be prepared to stand still or to go slow in wage settlements. This would allow some of the profits to be shared in a more equitable fashion with other factories such as Bathgate.
Mr Stan McKeown, who holds moderate views and is chairman of the shop stewards at Bathgate, made it clear that they still wanted parity with Cowlev.
“It must be stated that the differential that still prevails must be chipped away”, he said. They were not going to wait “for ever and a day ” for this to happen. Mr Smart said: “We are of course delighted with the news. The past nine weeks had seen the most serious strike in Bathgate’s history. ‘”We had lost production to a total value of £8m. In real moncy it has cost us £800,000. Goodwill of customers has been once again destroyed.