BL PEACE HOPES CRASH
By Peter Hitchens
Last hopes of a new era of peace at British Leyland were blown wide open last night when union leaders stalked out of crucial pay talks. There were fears that management’s hard line on productivity payments meant the end of a pay parity scheme that had hardly got off the ground. The setback, combined with rebel Roy Fraser’s toolmen’s strike could be the last straw for BL boss Michael Edwardes. The hammer blow came after seven hours squabbling between the two sides on the company’s joint negotiating Committee in Coventry. The row centred on BL’s plans to pay extra money only to factories hitting production targets – about five out of 34 car plants – instead of making a parity payment to all plants.
Transport Union official Grenville Hawley said: ‘This can’t do anything but worsen industrial relations. We have been rebuffed completely.’
He added: ‘For two years we have sat with the company trying to achieve centralised bargaining. Now they want to pay plant by plant. It’s a contradiction in terms. They want it both ways, but they say they’ll go ahead with their payments without our agreement.’
The unions have staked almost everything on the centralised bargaining plan – and if it breaks down now years of work will be thrown away. But it would give both sides a fresh opportunity to look at the toolmakers demands for separate bargaining. As Mr Fraser claimed yesterday that nearly half BL’s 8,000 toolmakers yesterday answered his unofficial strike call his union announced an ‘investigation ‘into his activities. President Terry Duffy said the Birmingham area of the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers claimed Mr Fraser breached union rules by trespassing on their territory. Mr Fraser accused them of mounting a witch hunt against him. ‘It smells of McCarthyism,’he said.
In London, BL said plants to get the extra money included both Cowley factories, Swindon press shop, Llanelli radiators and Common Lane, Birmingham.