By R. W. Shakespeare
Workers at the Austin-Morris car body plant at Cowley, Oxford, have unanimously rejected new management pay proposals that would end the traditional piecework system.The move was predictable. British Leyland has never had any doubts that it would have a considerable fight on its hands when It came to abolishing piecework and putting what it calls “a new payments system “rather than the more abrasive “measured day work” into its major manufacturing plants.
The company is, however, determined not to put its new model into production at Cowley on a piecework basis and would, I understand, be prepared to face a delay in starting the new lines rather than concede this principle. Mr. Pat Lowry British Leyland’s director of industrial relations, regards the abolition of piecework as being central to a whole new labour relations strategy in the corporation and the row is clearly now coming to a head.
Last week the 9,000 workers at the Castle Bromwich, car body works were warned by Mr. Harry Roberts, the plant’s director and general manager, that their jobs would be in jeopardy unless they were prepared to accept a new payments system. Stewards at the Cowley plant are due to meet the management again tomorrow to get a reply to their alternative pay proposals, which are based on the retention of piece work. There seems no doubt that these will be rejected.
The argument will then have to be taken through the various stages of the engineering industry’s formal disputes procedure, ending at the Central Conference at York. A ” failure to agree ‘ pronouncement after a central conference hearing would simply clear the decks for a straight confrontation between British Leyland and national union leaders.
Once the disputes procedure is exhausted the unions would be free. if they wished, to give official backing to any strike action against the introduction of the new pay system in any plan