By R. W. Shakespeare
British Leyland is facing a shut-down on car assembly operation at its Austin Morris plants at Longbridge, Birmingham, and Cowley, Oxford. Several thousand workers are likely to be laid off from today and many thousands more could be idle within a day or two because of a strike that has closed key components factories in the Midlands.
This threat to the motor industry comes at a time when some 20000 car and component workers are idle because of disputes at plants in the Midlands and in Scotland. The fresh trouble centres on a pay dispute at British Leyland’s central transmissions plant at Washwood Heath, Birmingham. Production is at a standstill because of a walk-out by 2,000 workers. A further 1,700 have been laid off. The strikers, who will be holding a mass meeting today, have rejected the management’s offer of a new pay deal which is not due to take effect until October 1.
The deal gives across the board increases of £4 a week with direct pay increase of £1.74p and the rest made up of additional holiday payments and higher premium payments. A company spokesman said yesteday:
“The strike is in breach of procedure because the negotiating machinery has not yet been exhausted. We cannot resume negotiations until there is a return to work.”
The Washwood Heath factory makes transmission units for the entire Austin Morris range of cars assembled at Longbridge and Cowley which between them employ more than 30,000 workers. It also makes transmissions for the MG factory at Abingdon.
Another major strike which has closed British Leyland trucks and tractor plant at Bathgate, West Lothian, is now into its fifth week. Yesterday 450 clerical workers who are out in support of pay demands voted to continue their action