By R. W. Shakespeare Northern Industrial Correspondent
British Leyland failed in another attempt yesterday to end a seven week strike by 3,000 workers which has closed the company’s truck and tractor plant at Bathgate, West Lothian. District officials and shop stewards representing the three unions involved rejected an improved pay offer £1 a week more in addition to better pay when laid off.
The union negotiators had gone to talks with the management immediately following a meeting with the strikers. At the time the new offer was not known. At the meeting Mr Stan McKeown. chairman of the shop stewards, said he had spoken to Mr Tam Dalvell, Labour MP for West Lothian, who had told him that he and other MPs had met Lord Stokes, chairman of British Leyland.
He said Lord Stokes had told him that if the strike at Bathgate was not settled by the end of the month he would “close down the plant”. After telling the management that the new offer was not acceptable, the union negotiators agreed to put it to a further meeting. The strikers, who belong to three unions, the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers, the Transport and General Workers, and the National Union of Vehicle Builders, make up the entire production labour force at Bathgate.
A management spokesman said last night that the improved offer had been made in the hope that it would secure a return to work so that the Scottish factory could take advantage of an improvement in the commercial vehicle market. which has been depressed for some time. British Levland has said that if working is resumed at Bathgate it can guarantee five day working at least until July, but it has given a warning that orders are being lost because of the shutdown.
The latest company terms included guaranteed lay-off pay at 80 per cent of the new rates for up to 10 days. The pay deal was designed to last for 12 months. At present skilled workers at the Bath- gate plant get £35.49 for a 40-hour week and the semi-skilled £32.30. Its rejection by the union negotiators, and the likelihood that they will also recommend rejection at the promised meeting with the strikers. probably means that the shop stewards will go ahead with plans to seek support from workers in other British Leyland plants.