HOME NEWS From Clifford Webb.
BL has dismissed nine employees, including six shop stewards, for committing acts of gross industrial misconduct during the disturbance at its Longbridge plant last month. The acts include an alleged assault on a works policeman, intimidation of other workers, and attempts to sabotage assembly tracks. Two other employees were suspended for two weeks without pay.
The latest move by management to tighten shopfloor discipline led to an immediate strike. Trouble flared late on Wednesday when the results of disciplinary hearings during the day reached the night shift. About two hundred and fifty workers walked out, halting final assembly lines producing the Metro and Mini. Pickets were mounted at some gates but attempts to persuade yesterday’s day shift to join the strike were singularly unsuccessful. Small groups of workers held meetings during their lunch break but the company said there had been no interference with production.
A company official said: “Although final assembly lines were halted on Wednesday night, we continued to complete and despatch Metros and Minis. Production is back to normal today “.
He said the misconduct considered by the disciplinary panel included “damage to cars, damage to company property, physical intimidation of employees, and unauthorized disruption of production outside their own work areas. This caused the company to lose production and other employees to be laid off unnecessarily.”‘
The incidents happened on November 21 when management attempted to bring in 12,000 front seats for Metros from an outside contractor. Seat workers “blacked” the outside supplies and the management replied by stopping the Metro assembly line and laying off 500 workers. Angry groups then ran about the huge plant smashing windows, overturning racks of components, damaging cars, and besieging frightened female staff in the headquarters building.
The dispute was resolved three days later after hours of talks between union leaders and management, but it cost the production of 1,500 Metros. Unions and the management were meeting last night to arrange the timetable for the hearing of appeals that have been lodged by most of the 11.