By CLIFFORD WEBB,
Midland Industrial Correspondent
Firm action by shop stewards and full-time union officials yesterday ended the unofficial strike by 250 workers in a Birmingham components factory, which threatened production throughout the motor industry. The men, employed at Burmans, a key supplier of steering gear, gearbox and transmission parts, walked out on Monday complaining that they had waited 11 weeks for a settlement of a new pay claim.
Within 24 hours British Leyland had laid off 1,000 engine assemblers at its Longbridge plant, while Ford, Vauxhall and Rootes said they might have to shut assembly lines earlv next week. Dennis Job, the shop stewards’ convener at Burman’s, told a lunchtime meeting of strikers: “Unless you go back to work to enable us to resume negotiations you must settle for a long strike. Remember it took the lads at Leyland a month to get an offer from the management. Do you want that’?”
Amid protests, Nigel Cooke, a district official of the Amalgamated Union of Engineering and Foundry Workers, reminded the men that they came out because the management would not improve its final offer. “Now they are prepared to resume negotiations and. believe me. that is the best you can expect.”
After two confusing votes the shop stewards announced a majority decision for a return to work that night, with the proviso that the management be given a week to improve its offer. British Leyland said that the 1000 men laid off by the Burmans dispute will be recalled for the night shift tonight.
Pay pact dispute threatens new Leyland stoppage
By R. W. SHAKESPEARE, Northern Industrial Correspondent
Talks were continuing late last night between British Leyland and union representatives at York in a bid to avert a second ” all-out” strike which could shut down the company’s five Lancashire plants by the weekend. The 8,500 Leyland employees returned to work on Monday after a five-week stoppage in support of a pay claim, but a dispute has now arisen over the terms of the back-to-work agreement During a break in the talks last night
Arthur Hearsey, chief negotiator for the Amalgamated Union of Engineering & Foundry Workers, said: “We are no nearer agreement. We could be talking into the early hours. It depends who gets tired first”.
He said the initial stumbling block was disagreement about a clause covering piecework rates. The management’s interpretation was that the higher rates should be paid only for new jobs, while the union representatives understood they would apply to all work, including existing jobs. The trouble flared up again at 8 a.m. yesterday. When workers at the factories, four in Leyland and one at Chorley, reported for work, they immediately walked out again to hold meetings. Nearly 7000 attended the Leyland meeting and another 1,000 were at the Chorley one.
Unlike the meetings held during the strike, both of these were angry affairs, with groups of men shouting their complaints that the management were failing to carry out the terms of a “peace settlement” which ended the strike. Len Brindle, senior works convenor, told the Leyland meeting that the agreement reached with the management in York last Thursday was merely a formula for a return to work and nothing more.
He alleged that the management was now trying to hold him to it and maintaining that it was a hard and fast agreement. The strike was in support of a claim for higher piece work rates which would give skilled men nearly £24 for a 40-hour week, an improvement of more than £2 a week on average earnings. Shop floor representatives allege that the management is planning to introduce a fixed day rate at the factories, which in practice would keep earnings below the level which the men were claiming when they went on strike, and which they believed they had won in the settlement. Feelings are running high.
At both meetings yesterday there were demands for immediate strike action. Mr. Brindle advised against it for the time being. Vincent Murphy, the deputy chairman of the works committee, said: “If this is not sorted out by Friday afternoon we will empty the factories like lightning.”
In the end both meetings voted for an immediate work to rule and an overtime ban.