SKILLED toolmaker Roy Fraser, the man urging,strike chaos at Leyland, earned £76 this week. The same as a workmate who does no more than bolt on Marina car door handles. And the same as a mum, with her kids off her hands, who spends 40 hours a week stitching Maxi seat covers. After a four year apprenticeship, hours at night school. City and Guilds exams and then more than £300 to buy his own tools, Mr Fraser reckons he is hard done by.
And that is why this weekend he has put BL on a collision course which chairman Michael Edwardes prophesies can only end in disaster. Mr Fraser, branded by Mr Edwardes as a wrecker, is demanding an agreement which recognises the worth of a skilled man ‘I expect by Monday morning 6,000 of the 8,000 Leyland toolmakers will have decided to strike,’ the 44-year-oId father of three said last night at his bungalow home near Cowley, Oxford.
‘We want a realistic rate for the job. But a promise of that would not be enough. We would need an assurance that somebody acting with Mr Edwardes’s authority was prepared to sit round a table and negotiate the increase with us. Instead the company is threatening draconlan measures against the work force such as closing factories down.”
Mr Fraser, pondering on the gravity of the situation, went on: ‘I have worked for the company for 29 years.We are buying our own house and so obviously it means my livelihood to me as well as to the other people. I am concerned for the survival of Leyland but what else can we do to get our true value recognised?”
Many toolmaker benches at Cowley and Longbridge are empty because Renault, Citroen, Saab, and Ford have lured men away with higher wages. ‘I regret things have sunk to the level where one personality is slanging another instead of getting to the cause of the trouble,’ said Mr Fraser, leader of t he unofficial BL limited craft organisation.
Meanwhile as the showdown loomed, Leyland boss Mr Edwardes said: ‘A lot of people in the company are sick to death with Mr Fraser.Whenever he comes along and we look like getting into a peaceful period of constructive, creative activity, he puts forward these plausible arguments for a section of people for whom I have a very great sympathy, He purports to speak for them, I’m saying he cannot speak for them., his own union won’t accept that he is a spokesman. The rest of the unions do not, and management does not.’
BUT WILL HIS MEN STRIKE
By Peter Hitchens
ROY FRASER’S rebel army appeared to be on the retreat throughout the Leyland empire last night, despite his claims to the contrary.
His hopes of an all-out skilled men’s strike dwindled as plant after plant deserted his unofficial banner. Appeals and warnings from Industry Secretary Eric Varley, Leyland chief Michael Edwardes, and union officials seem to have persuaded thousands of men that Mr Fraser is marching towards disaster. The huge Longbridge plant, the Jaguar factories, the Triumph plants and Birmingham component factories all looked set to ignore his strike call. The Swindon body plant is also expected to work normally next week. And there were signs that Cowley and Castle’ Bromwich body shops were having second thoughts about taking part. Only the Rover plant at Solihull and the gearbox factory in Cardiff were definitely backing the strike.
Strike Rebels get Brush Off
By Terry Pattinson
Leyland car bosses believe they have got the better of rebel tool makers. They are confident that less than a third of thirty four plants will support calls for an all out strike.
Tool makers leader Roy Fraser – who wants separate bargaining rights – predicted that fifteen factories would back the unofficial strike.
But last night it looked as if he would get the support of only eleven – with the giant Longbridge and Speke plants of Birmingham and Liverpool among those defying his call.
Meanwhile, Mr Pratt Thompson, managing director of Jaguar Rover Thompson warned that the results of a widespread walk out ‘too stark to contemplate.”
Two years ago a four week stoppage by the tool makers brought state owned company to the brink of disaster. But since then at least two strike calls by Mr Fraser and his supporters have been received by tool men with luke warm enthusiasm. The rebels are seeking a £90 basic wage.