BL warns union over strike support
By Clifford Webb and Donald Macintyre
Mr Pat Lowry, British Leyland’s director of personnel, last night warned the union directly involved in the dismissal on Mondav of Mr Derek Robinson, the Longbridge convenor, that industrial action in his support was jeopardizing the future of the company. About 32,000 workers are on strike. Mr Lowry took the unusual step of sending an open letter to Sir John Boyd, the unions general secretary, attempting to justify in detail the decision to dismiss Mr Robinson. He did so after an informal meeting with Mr Terence Duffy, the unions president, and two members of the executive of the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers. On Tuesday, the executive is expected to consider calls for strikes in support of Mr Robinson to be made official. Mr Lowry wrote:
“Those of British Leylands employees now on strike must make up their minds, and quickly, where they stand. They can return to work, leaving the AUEW, if it so desires, to pursue the case of Mr Robinson through normal procedural channels. Alternatively they put at risk the company and their own future in it.”
With both sides digging in for what could be the most critical confrontation since Sir Michael Edwardes became chairman of British Leyland, Mr Mostyn (Moss) Evans, general secretary of the Transport and General Workers’ Union, called for an urgent summit meeting. He said in Birmingham:
“I think Leyland have made a serious mistake in sacking Mr Robinson. Mr Robinson is not just an AUEW member, but has been elected by all the shop stewards at Leyland to represent them, and therefore we are very involved. I suggest there should be a speedy meeting of the general secretaries of the unions involved with Sir Michael Edwardes and Mr Lowry to resolve the situation as soon as possible.”
A mass meeting of 8,000 workers at the company’s commercial vehicle factories at Leyland, Lancashire, yesterday overwhelmingly rejected their shop stewards’ recommendation that they should join the strike against Mr Robinson’s dismissal. Meanwhile Mr Robinson’s family is split by the confrontation. His elder brother, Mr Benny Robinson, has refused to join the strike at Longbridge, but his twin brother, Dennis, is supporting him on the picket line.