By Roy Farndon
British Leyland said yesterday there would now be no compulsory redundancies at Thornycroft, its heavy transmission subsidiary. The Basingstoke works has been stopped for five weeks by a sit-in of more than 600 workers protesting at the plant’s sale to the Eaton Corporation of Ohio. Some 300 workers have accepted severance payment and left since the sale was announced on June 7, British Leyland said.
This is roughly the number of redundancies foreshadowed in the deal with the American company, due to be completed on October 1st. Eaton will take on the remaining 700 workers. This was possible, according to British Leyland, because of the voluntary redundancies and the opportunities for redeployment now available. It was also said that Eaton had told union officials that provided present market conditions did not deteriorate no redundancy was anticipated during 1972 and throughout 1973.
British Leyland said’ of the assurances being given: “Those participating in the Basingstoke sit-in should therefore consider their own interests and those of their families and should not be misled into fighting other people’s imaginary battles.”
The latter remark can be taken as a reference to suggestions that Thornycroft is in the front line of a battle against further alleged hiving-off. British Leyland obviously wan!s to make it clear that in its view something of substance was offered in talks with national union officials last week. Representatives of the men at Basingstoke, however, have emphasized that they are opposed to the takeover itself. They also want the labour force to be maintained at 1,000.
There are fears of an eventual rundown of the works. Today officials, of the six engineering unions report to the men on last week’s talks with the BLMC management. It is believed they feel there is little progress to report and no basis for suggesting that the sit-in should be called off. British Leyland is therefore faced with growing disruption in its bus and truck division, which depends on supplies of gearboxes and transmission units from Basingstoke for its heavy vehicle ranges.
The sit-in was preceded by several weeks of curtailed production resulting from a work-to-rule, and stocks of components are running down.