By R. W. Shakespeare
A fresh wave of strikes in the car, components and engineering industries, is taking a heavy toll of production. Output losses are running into millions of pounds, at a time when these key industrial sectors are struggling to recover from the financial drain and backlog of orders following the power crisis and three-day week.
This was the grim picture yesterday. All Marina car production was stopped for the sixth day running, with losses totalling more than £5m. All Mini production was halted at Longbridge, Birmingham, with 2,500 workers laid off and production losses of £1m a day. This resulted from a strike at the British Leyland-owned SU Carburettor plant at Birmingham, where 380 workers have stopped over a pay dispute and another 460 are laid off.
At the British Leyland car plant at Oxford it now seems doubtful that the Marina car lines will be reopened this week. Assembly workers who are on strike against the management’s use of industrial engineers to evolve plans for reduced manning scales and higher productivity, met yesterday morning and decided to continue their action. About 1,200 workers are idle and they will not now meet again until tomorrow morning.
With output losses mounting at the rate of £1m a day there is the growing prospect that more Cowley workers will have to be laid off. No fresh negotiations have yet been arranged and the management is sticking to its case that it has a standing agreement with the car unions covering the reorganization plans it is trying to carry out.
The standstill of the Mini lines at Longbridge, which normally turn out between 800 and 900 cars in each 24 hours, is another bitter blow for British Leyland. Demand for these cars is at a peak because of high petrol prices and there is a big backlog of orders. The trouble stems from a strike at the Birmingham components factory. On Monday there was a walkout by 120 men and 260 women workers following the breakdown of plant level pay talks.
Another 460 workers had to be sent home.