By Clifford Webb
The strike that has stopped production of BL Metro and Mini cars at its Longbridge for the past three days is developing into a damaging confrontation between the state owned group and Britain’s biggest union.
The Transport and. General Workers’ Union is expected to give the strike its official backing on Monday. The company last night laid off more than 3,000 of the member labour force with a warning that more will follow if the dispute doesn’t end soon. The widening of the strike by 1,300 men protesting at the dismissal of eight colleagues comes after the company’s refusal to let the union cross- examine witnesses who gave evidence at recent disciplinary hearings.
The union has called a meeting of its regional finance and general purposes committee for Monday to consider a recommendation that the strike should be declared official. If, as expected, the recommendation is accepted it will almost certainly be backed by the, union leader, Mr Mostyn Evans. He has indicated that such action would be a formality. Mr Brian Mathers, regional secretary of the union, said: “We have asked the company for an opportunity to cross-question the witnesses but they have refused this very reasonable request. That is not the way to defuse a very explosive situation. We are sill prepared to meet management”.
This union will not be coming out in defence of anyone who has maliciously damaged company property. The company has not offered one jot of evidence against the men dismissed that they did any damage or carried out any specific acts during the disturbance at the plant on November 21 .
A BL spokesman said: “Witnesses are not called personally before a disciplinary hearing. They submit written evidence and their names remain confidential, for obvious reasons. That has long been the established practice “.