Midland Industrial Correspondent
British Motor Holdings has begun a full-scale reorganization of its biggest production unit, the Longbridge group of factories employing 23,500 men and women on making Austin cars.
Manufacturing has now been re-grouped into four separate units each with its own general manager. The new groupings are broadly based on vehicle assembly; north and south engineering works, cast works, and the new Â£16m engine plant nearing completion at Cofton Hackett. Richard Perry, divisional director responsible for all Longbridge production, said yesterday:
‘This is a real attempt to try to get more management control in the areas, which we think are correctly divided. Another improvement we have made is to strengthen the production control departnent as distinct from material control. This enables a greater degree of control to be effected between the newly formed sub-divisions.’
By shortening the chain of command the new moves will undoubtedly improve labour relations. But the big breakthrough in this all important sector is still being prepared. A team of job evaluation experts, said to be the biggest in the industry, is now being trained at Longbridge. It faces the enormous task of trying to sort out the present maze of rates and gradings which form the root cause of Longbridge’s appalling labour relations record, Already this year the group has lost 10,000 cars, worth around £3m, almost entirely through stoppages at this one plant. As fast as one dispute is settled another rears its ugly head
The latest threat comes from the lowest paid group of workers at Longbridge, the labourers, who are mainly immigrants. Since Tuesday they have refused to work overtime and are threatening to strike on Monday and Tuesday and to repeat the process every week until the management meets their claim for upgrading. Their allegations that a colour bar is being enforced to prevent upgrading of immigrants is strenuously denied by BMH. A three day strike by the same men in November stopped all engine production and caused 6000 workers to be laid off.