By R. W. Shakespeare Northern Industrial Correspondent
British Leyland, which has lost more than £25m Worth of vehicle output during the past three to four weeks, largely because of internal labour problems, now faces the prospect of further disruption.
Its assembly operations are increasingly threatened by a strike at Rubery Owen, one of its chief component suppliers. The corporation appears to have resolved the worst of its own disputes. At Cowley, Oxford, where about £17m worth of Marina and Maxi car production has been lost, because of strikes and lay-offs, work is almost back to normal. At the five bus and truck factories in Lancashire where another £2m worth of production has been lost because of a dispute over a new pay deal, the 8,500 workers voted yesterday for a full return to allow negotiations to continue.
At the Jaguar car plant in Coventry, disputes involving transport drivers and engineers, which have made 2,000 other workers idle and cost £4m in output have also been resolved, and the Triumph car plants are again working after disputes which cost another £1m of lost production.
The fresh problems for British Leyland centre on a strike by some 2,400 workers at the Rubery Owen group’s factories at Wednesbury and Darlaston in Staffordshire. Already this stoppage has cut off supplies of wheels for the 2000 and 3500 range of cars made at the Rover plant at Solihull. Some 1300 Rover workers are laid off and production losses are already running at about £1,200,000.
British Leyland relies largely on Rubery Owen for supplies of components that go into its entire range of volume production cars that are assembled at the Austin Morris division’s two main centres at Cowley and Longbridge; in the Triumph and Rover plants in the Midlands and on Merseyside; and the high-performance models produced by Daimler-Jaguar. Stocks of all components are dwindling fast and the supply position is being reviewed on a day-to-day basis.