By Clifford Webb Midland Industrial correspondent
British Leyland car workers at Longbridge who are not involved in piecework, 8000 in all, are to get pay increases ranging between £5.28 and £8.55 a week in three instalments over the next 13 months. The deal between the company and the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions was signed last night.
The British Leyland deal marks the successful completion of three years bitter, and at times, frustrating negotiations between management and unions at Longbridge, near Birmingham, the group’s biggest plant and the headquarters of their Austin-Morris division. Although it has cost British Levland 22 per cent more on its wage bill for the 8000 it has also enabled them to make another vital breakthrough in the change from outdated piecework to measured day work.
This has already been done at Austin-Morris’s other big plant at Cowley near Oxford, where the new ADO28 is being built. British Leyland does not expect to incur Whitehall’s wrath for concluding stuch an apparently over-generous deal. The company con- siders it was entirelv justifed by the urgency of the need to modernize the methods of working in its largest car plant. There is still some way to go at Longbridge, however, before piece-work disappears.
The men affected by last night’s deal are all indirect workers and not involved in piece-work. But until there complex system of job grading could be sorted out there was little point in tackling the more sensitive assembly line workers. It was the priority given to the indirect workers at Cowley which paved the way for the later replacement of piecework. Altogether, 150 grades of indirect workers at Longbridge are to he replaced by seven.
A joint statement said last night: “Under the terms of this agreement both management and unions will work together to obtain the most effective use of indirect manpower. Both have recognized for a long time that the previouslv high number of grades had led to a friction between employees and an almost continuous stream of pay claims”.
Employees in the lowest grade, who at present receive £22.53 a week, will be increased immediately to £26. The top grade goes up from £40.22 to £42. Further increases will follow in July and November this year and May next year, bringing the two grades up to £31.08 and £45.50 respectively. These rates will last until May, 1973.
Although full details of the grades and pay increases were not available last night, the average increase appears to amount to 15 per cent a year over the two years the deal is to run. The £8.55 in- crease awarded to the lowest grade will, in fact, be received by only 90 employees.
Triumphs still closed:
With £1m. worth of production lost already. the strike which has closed Triumph plants at Coventry and Liverpool and made 11,500 employees idle looks like continuing at least until the middle of next week. All car production is at a standstill. The 75 jig setters who walked out at Liverpool on Wednesday met yesterday and decided to continue their strike for increased bonus payments. They are not due to meet again before Wednesday.
As a result the company laid off a further 900 men. bringing the total laid off there to 2,500. Almost the whole of the company’s manual labour force is now idle.
ADO16 Morris Traveller replaced in Spain by the Austin 1300 Countryman.