Court battle set as Austin men go back
By Clifford Webb
The 16-day strike in Austin Rover car factories collapsed yesterday when mass meetings at two Cowley plants voted overwhelmingly to return to work. Workers at Longbridge, the only plant still on strike, are expected to acknowledge their isolation and vote to return at a mass meeting today.
In spite of the notable victory for a determined management, Mr Harold Musgrove, Austin Rover chairman, said last night that he still intends to press ahead with the High Court hearing set for Monday against the transport union, the only one to declare the strike official and defy the High Court order that it should call off the strike pending a secret ballot.
Mr Musgrove told The Times: “I did not resort to the courts lightly. We shall continue with the action because of the considerable amount of damage done to this company. I believe that the evidence shows conclusively that some of the mass meetings which supposedly called for a strike were rigged and I owe it to the majority of our employees to do something about that. They are clearly being led into strikes they do not want. Secret ballots are the only fair way of deciding such crucial issues as a man’s livelihood.”
Workers have been crossing picket lines in increasing numbers since the strike began on November 5. By Monday night 15,000 of the 28,000 workers were back at their benches. But the breakthrough came yesterday when mass meetings of more than 7,000 employees at the Cowley body and assembly plants defied their shop stewards and voted overwhelmingly to return last night.
About 5,200 Longbridge workers, more than half the plant’s labour force, crossed picket lines yesterday, but Mr Jack Adams, the plant’s union convener, refused to say if he would recommend calling off the strike at the mass meeting planned for today.