Court Move To Halt Strike by car Workers
The strike by Austin Rover Car workers began yesterday as the company carried out its threat to go to the courts to stop it.
Austin Rover issued a High Court writ requiring the nine unions involved to withdraw their strike call until a ballot had been held.
Its application for a court order is expected to be heard today, and will be the first test of the governments 1984 Trade Union act which came into effect in September. The stoppage was widespread on the first day of the strike. The two major plants – Cowley in Oxford and Longbridge in Birmingham – were at a standstill.
However, 3000 workers went to work at smaller plants. Shop stewards from all 14 of the company’s car plants voted at a three hour meeting in Coventry to reject the company’s pay offer of 10% over two years and continue the strike.
Later Austin Rover said in a statement: ‘This is an incredible decision. The company has made its final offer and there is no possibility that it will be improved further.”
‘We believe that the responsible members of the joint negotiating committee recognise this, but they have been thwarted by the militants who have even gone so far as to distort voting figures at their disorderly mass meetings.”
The company statement added : ‘They have no mandate from our employees to strike action. The only valid way to obtain the views of our employees is through a properly conducted secret ballot while normal working continues.”
‘In the light of the disruptive and cynical tactics endorsed today by the delegates, who seem determined not to consult employees on whether there should be a strike, Austin Rover is convinced ever more firmly of the need to use the due process of the law to bring the strike to a speedy end.”
Under Section 11 of the 1984 Trade Union Act, the unions are liable to court action and damages up to £250000 if they do not hold a secret ballot before calling a strike. The Austin Rover unions called the strike after a show of hands at mass meetings of the 28,000 workers.
The company’s writ seeks to stop each of the nine unions ‘inducing, persuading, directing, instructing or in any other way encouraging ‘ the company’s employees to strike. The writ also suggests that damages might be sought. Today’s hearing is expected to be heard in private, in the absence of the unions. Any injunction granted would be temporary, until the unions case was heard.
At the Longbridge plant yesterday about 30 workers were led past the pickets by a group of women amid pushing, shoving and some bitter arguments. However, at both Longbridge and Cowley only a few workers crossed the picket lines and no cars were produced.
A mass meeting of about 1500 workers at the Drews Lane plant in Birmingham has been called today. Mr John Allen, the engineering unions Birmingham East district secretary, said his members had a right to be consulted before a dispute.
‘We are not going to have Scargillism at the factory gates in East Birmingham,” he said.
However, the chief union negotiator, Mr Grenville Hawley, said after the shop stewards meeting that the unions would call no more mass meetings nationwide until the company puts forward an offer they could recommend. The offer of 5% each year was unacceptable. He said the vote to continue the stoppage was overwhelming.