From Clifford Webb Birmingham
Shop stewards at BL’s Longbridge car plant yesterday threatened to step up the strike by 1,300 workers which has stopped production of the Metro and Mini for two days. At the end of a two-and-a- half hour meeting Mr Jack Adams the shop stewards convener, said: “If the present limited action does not secure the re-instatement of the eight men dismissed, then we shall escalate the stoppage. We have already applied for it to be made official by both unions concerned.”
The management had singled out the eight for its own private reasons, and that amounted to victimization. If the company had such a good case against the men, who included four shop stewards, it should charge them with committing specific acts of’ vandalism during the disturbance of November 21, or withdraw the allegations and reinstate them. He expected the Transport and General Workers’ Union to declare the strike official by the end of the week. The men have, in fact, appeared before a disciplinary hearing, at which each was faced with evidence relating to specific acts as witnessed by other workers and supervisors.
A BL spokesman said: “These were properly conducted hearings in the presence of union representatives and within the framework of the, official disputes procedure”.
Mr John Barker, the full-time officer of the transport union responsible for Longbridge, has recommended official backing. He said: “The mood of the workers on strike is very strong indeed. I have never known them so militant. To come out on strike just before Christmas is the biggest possible sacrifice they can make. The whole plant could be at a standstill within a week”.
However, a majority of the 15,000 workers at Longbridge have crossed the picket lines. Many workers are still angry at the attempt to introduce mob rule during last month’s stoppage. Even if the strike is made official and union loyalty put to the test, there would be divisions between unions. The moderate Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers says that if the eight men want their case investigated by an independent body they should go to an industrial tribunal and seek redress for wrongful dismissal. The management has given tacit support to the majority by postponing, layoffs.