Archive : BLMC and Lucas disputes threaten massive disruptions

By our Northern Labour Correspondent

Two important sections of the vehicle industry faced serious disruption last night because of continuing disputes that are now threatening to make thousands of workers idle. The British Leyland Motor Corporation could feel some of the worst effects of the dislocation because of the crisis which has developed over its decision to sell its heavy transmissions factory at Basingstoke , Hampshire, to an American company.

Workers who are opposed to the plan have been sitting in for two months, and supporting strike action by 16,000 workers in the rest of the BLMC truck and bus division is threatened unless the dispute at Basingstoke is settled by tomorrow.

A settlement at the Basingstoke plant , the former Thornycroft factory , seems virtually impossible by tomorrow. At the weekend, 320 of the 700 workers taking part in the sit-in voted overwhelmingly to reject company proposals which emerged from 10 hours of talks between unions and management last week , but negotiations were still in progress at the factory yesterday.

Shop stewards representing the rest of the truck and bus workers employed by BLMC are to meet tomorrow in Preston to decide whether to implement their strike threat. A further full meeting of the Basingstoke workers could influence their decision , but in any case, BLMC faces disruption that could cause lay-offs because of the shorta ge of components normally supplied by the Basingstoke plant. The lack of gearboxes will disrupt work at the AEC truck and bus factory at Hayes, Middlesex , another BLMC subsidiary, by the weekend.

At the Leyland plants in Lancashire , where there is less direct dependence on components from the Basingstoke works , work schedules are being rearranged to avoid lay-offs. Shop stewards at Basingstoke are understood to be strongly opposed to the latest terms put forward by BLMC for ending the sit-in , which stopped all production at the factory on August 15.

The terms include a promise of continuing orders for the factory that would ensure jobs for at least 738 workers until early in 1976, but the stewards are insisting that there should be a guarantee of employment for 1,100 workers , the size of the labour force before the present dispute began.

British Leyland wants to sell the plant for £5 millions to the Eaton Corporation, of Ohio. USA, to help its capitalisation programme. Its latest offer to the workers includes an undertaking that the factory would not be handed over to its new owners until the beginning of next year , and a promise of payments of about £100 a head to compensate them for lost earnings.

Keith Adams

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