By R. W. Shakespeare
British Leyland has been forced to lay off another 1,000 workers at its Austin-Morris plant at Longbridge. Birmingham because of the unofficial pay strike of 600 toolroom workers at the Castle Bromwich, car body factory. The strike, now in its third week, has made more than 13,0000 other workers idle. Car production losses total more than £7m at show room value.
The fresh lay offs are in the engines plant where production of mini cars is already stopped with 2,000 assembly workers idle. At the Castle Bromwhich plant 4,100 workers have had to be sent home and car body production is at a standstill.
Yesterday a further 6,000 British Leyland workers at the Jaguar car plant in Coventry, who have been laid off for the past two weeks because of the shortage of car bodies, were told to report for work on Monday morning.
A ‘British Leyland management spokesman said: “We are making it clear that this is only a temporary move. We have managed complete some car bodies away from the Castle Brromwich plant and this will provide work for the Jaguar plant for three or four days next week. However unless body production is restarted the Jaguar ‘workers will have to be laid off again when this limited number of cars has been completed.”
Any hope that the toolroom mens pay dispute will be settled rests on a mass meeting of the strikers today. They face another direct instruction from leaders of the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers to go back to work while negotiations are resumed. A week ago the strikers defied a similar instruction. At today’s meeting much will depend on the attitude adopted by shop stewards following their talks with union officials.
Mr Hugh Scanlon, AUEW president, has warned the strikers that their stoppage could lead to the loss of valuable overseas contracts. He has said that the company has given an undertaking that a return to work will lead to immediate negotiations on their pay demands and that any settlement will be backdated.
Lord Stokes is quoted as saying: “There’s no doubt that we’re going to have two or three tough years (with a depressed auto market) ahead of us but following that there will be an upturn. I don’t think people are really going to stop buying cars forever simply because the price of fuel is going up… we will have a lot of pent up demand.. A lot will depend on the U.S market that is so big that it will have to be put back in order before there’s a general upturn in the world.”