By R. W. Shakespeare
Northern Industrial Correspondent
British Leyland has made its biggest breakthrough yet in its plans to eliminate piecework from its largest car plants in favour of fixed hourly rates. The 3,300 workers at BLMC’s Coventry engines plant have accepted a pay agreement vwhich replaces the piecework system with agreed fixed wages for a 40-hour week.
The deal is highly significant for British Leyland since the Coventry engines plant becomes the first of its Midland plants to accept the end of piece-working. This could influence negotiations in progress at the Longbridge plant and in the Triumph and Jaguar factories. The pay deal will last for two years. In the first stage the general rate for production workers will become £44.85 for a 40-hour week and in the second- stage, taking effect in November of next year, it will move up-to £48 for a 40 hour week.
The deal also includes higher holiday pay, up to 90 per cent of guaranteed earnings by the end of 1973. There are guarantees on lay-off pay whereby workers will get 80 per cent of normal earnings for lay-offs of up to seven days in each 60-day period. Overtime and shift rates are also improved. There will be a “full shift” guarantee, which means that if a man starts work on a single shift he will be paid for the whole of it, if work is interrupted other than by a strike.
As well as the fixed rate covering production workers, the vast majority in the plant, there will be six new grades for “indirect” workers. These are being regarded as provisional until a grading system is determined by work study exercises. Last night a British Leyland spokesman said that the new deal was “extremely gratifying.” particularly in view of the protracted negotiations.
It had been achieved because of the full cooperation of union district officials and because of the overwhelming desire of the vast majority of the workers concerned to move on to a more stable system of payments. It is understood that a ballot conducted among the workers in the Coventry engine plant resulted in a three to one vote in favour of the deal.
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