Archive : BL and the three-day week

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

British Leyland, the biggest of the car companies, averages £32m worth of vehicle production a week in normal times, ranging from Minis to double-decker buses, and including both high-volume and quality car models. Under the three-day week arrangements, it can expect to achieve about 60 per cent of normal output and this would cut production by between £12m and £13m a week.

The same sort of calculations apply right across the engineering industry, with its three million workers all on short time. Any attempt by plants engaged on purely assembly operations to step up output levels during their ” power on ” days would be countered by shortages of components from their suppliers. The effect on unit costs is much more difficult to calculate, because there is a cumulative cost to be borne as materials and components pass through the pipeline of various companies.

It seems clear, however, that, taking the motor industry as an example, the present reduced output levels mean that many models, especially in the volume car sector, will be made at a loss. Fixed overheads will remain, although less materials will be used, and the majority of companies are not only having to honour guaranteed week agreements for their workers, paying them up to 80 per cent of basic rates for periods when they are idle, they will also, when powerr allocations come in the second half of the week, have to pay overtime rates at time and a half for Saturday working and double time when shifts extend into Sunday.

The extra cost is already raising serious doubts about whether Saturday working can be sustained if the power crisis measures continue for any length of time. Government ministers and the Department of Trade and Industry will be coming under strong pressure from industrial leaders, following the first experience of Saturday working, to alternate the power rotas so that all companies get their share of weekend working. Employers’ organizations, some of whom will be seeing ministers today, will be pointing out that there are big anomalies in the present system both for managements and their employees.

The first weekend of the system brought a good response by workers generally to the Saturday shifts, with absenteeism lower than had been fore- cast. This was partly the result of the uncompromising attitude by most of the big unions, which ensured that overtime rates were being paid in most sectors of industry.

But British Leyland got only half a day’s output from its 19,000 workers at the Austin- Morris car plant at Cowley,The same sort of calculations apply right across the engineer- ing industry, with its three million workers all on short time. Any attempt by plants engaged on purely assembly operations to step up output levels during their ” power on ” days would be countered by shortages of components from their suppliers. The effect on unit costs is much more difficult to calculate, because there is a cumulative cost to be borne as materials and components pass through the pipeline of various com- panies.

It seems clear, however, that, taking the motor industry as an example, the present reduced output levels mean that many models, especially in the volume car sector, will be made at a loss. Fixed overheads will remain, although less materials will be used, and the majority of com- panies are not only having to honour guaranteed week agree- ments for their workers, paying them up to 80 per cent of basic rates for periods when they are idle, they will also, when pn-A-pr allnr-tions come in the second half of the week, have to pay overtime rates at time and a half for Saturday working and double time when shifts extend into Sunday.

The extra cost is already rais. ing serious doubts about whether Saturday working can be sustained if the power crisis measures continue for any length of time. Government ministers and the Department of Trade and Industry will be coming under strong pressure from industrial leaders, following the first ex- perience of Saturday working, to alternate the power rotas so that all companies get their share of weekend working. Employers’ organizations, some of whom will be seeing ministers today, will be pointing out that there are big anomalies in the present system both for managements and their employees.

The first weekend of the system brought a good response by workers generally to the Saturday shifts, with absenteeism lower than had been fore- cast. This was partly the result of the uncompromising attitude by most of the big unions, which ensured *that overtime rates were being paid in most sectors of industry. But British Leyland got only half a day’s output from its 19,000 workers at the Austin- Morris car plant at Cowley, and Chrysler could run into trouble at its Coventry car plant this week, because the three-day, week arrangements are being complicated by the effects of an internal labour dispute.

Keith Adams

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it up to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.

Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...

Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
Keith Adams

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