By CLIFFORD WEBB,
Midland Industral Correspondent
British Leyland car plants throughout the country are threatened by strikes in support of a guaranteed lay-off pay for workers made idle by stoppages in outside component plants. First to be hit was the Coventry factory of Triumph. Seven thousand five hundred workers stayed away yesterday because 1300 of their fellow workers had been laid off due to the 11-day-old strike at G.K.N. Sankey at Wellington, Shropshire.
Shop stewards at Triumph have told the company they will repeat the walk-out every time there are lay-offs. The unofficial British Leyland combined shop stewards’ committee, which claims to represent the corporation’s 180,000 employees, gave a warning last night that similar action will be taken at other plants in the group.
A spokesman said: “The men on the shop floor are absolutely fed up with management’s refusal to pay men laid off through no fault of their own. There are so many strikes at outside firms these days that we have forgotten what a full pay packet looks like. Make no mistake about it this issue is easily the most explosive British Leyland has seen for a long time.”
Under the terms of the Engineering Employers’ Federation agreement with the unions, men are paid only when they are laid off by a strike in a non-federated firm. British Leyland and G.K.N. are members of the federation, but it is believed that British Leyland is considering leaving the E.E.F. None of the other major car firms, Ford, Vauxhall, and Chrysler, is a member and all have individual agreements on lay-off pay.
The campaign for similar agreements in British Leyland is bound to be stepped up when employees hear details of a new lay-off agreement expected to be accepted by the men at Chrysler’s Ryton Coventry, plant. I understand this will be signed tomorrow. Meanwhile British Leyland faces a disastrous series of stoppages at a time when it is struggling to recover from its worst year. The situation lends strength to reports that the corporation is considering recognizing the unofficial shop stewards body.
National officials of the motor unions have already rejected management approaches for the formation of a joint union-management council for British Leyland. They say that it would cut across negotiations at plant level. In a carefully worded statement yesterday Pat Lowry, the corporation’s director of industrial relations, said: “We are naturally considering every possible method of improving our industrial relations, but recognition of the shop stewards’ committee would not be a matter for a unilateral decision by the corporation . It would require the agreement of the unions with whom we are at present negotiating. I should explain that the matter has not been discussed with them and no decision has been taken.”
A strike by nine Rover engine workers laid off 700 at the Solihull, Warwickshire,
The Triumph Toledo is announced today.