By R. W. Shakespeare
The motor industry looks as if it is going to find itself right away in the front line of union and shopfloor opposition to the three-day week. Most of the big Midlands and Merseyside car plants were again at a standstill yesterday, after being idle since before the Christmas holidays began.
This was because workers in those plants that have been allocated power for the first three days of this week declined to forfeit the new statutory New Year’s Day holiday and take time off in lieu later in the week. In practice, this means that many motor companies will get only one day’s full production this week. They will be able to start up today but will have to shut again for the remainder of the week because they will be without power.
The car unions will also be insisting on full implementation of guaranteed lay off pay agreements. Many car workers are expected to refuse to work Saturday shifts unless they are paid for at full overtime rates. Even if this is agreed to by the motor firms, Saturday absenteeism may still seriously hit production. One big car plant that did try to operate ran into problems because of absenteeism. This was the British Leyland Rover factory at Solihull.
So many workers failed to turn up that production of the 2200 and 3500 models had to be stopped, About half of the textile mills in the Blackburn area of North Lancashire were working with up to 90 per cent of their workers present. They had agreed to work during the holiday and take Thursday and Friday off instead. Many workers at hosiery mills in the Nottingham area agreed to similar arrangements, as did the 5,000 labour force at the Rolls-Royce factory at Crewe.
The Lucas group reported that five of its 12 factories were operating yesterday, and the majority of Wilmot Breeden’s 4,000 workers in the Birmingham area turned up for their shifts. The Government has handed out a new year gift to 40,000 workers in the pottery industry with the promise of a four or five-day working week. The Department of Trade and Industry have agreed to include the ceramics industry among the list of industries dependent on continuous working.