By R. W. Shakespeare
With car production continuing at about 80 per cent of normal levels at British Leyland’s Austin-Morris plant at Cowley, Oxford, yesterday in spite of the renewed strike by 250 engine tuners, the management announced that all 12,000 production workers on the day and night shifts were being asked to report for work as usual on Monday.
Management was hopeful that it will be able to maintain output of about 800 cars a day compared with the pre-strike level of about 1,000. The engine tuners, who voted by a narrow majority to resume their strike on Thursday after a breakdown of fresh negotiations between senior management and national union officials, are not due to meet again until Thursday. They first went on strike, in support of a demand to be reclassified as skilled workers, on Monday, when the plant was brought to a standstill with all production workers laid off.
On Tuesday they returned pending the outcome of fresh negotiations. Then on Thursday the vote was 123 to 107 in favour of a renewed strike. The Cowley management, however, announced that it intended to try to keep the plant in operation because “most employees appear to want to work “, but it stressed that this could only be done with full cooperation on the shop floor. This cooperation is clearly being shown since Cowley is not only making cars but getting most of them, other than those needing special attention, away to distributors and dealers. Far from expressing any support for the strike, a number of shop floor spokesmen have condemned it as being, to say the least, “ill considered”.
It is likely that local leaders of the car unions will be meeting during the weekend and will try to persuade the strikers to convene another meeting before the one scheduled for Thursday. In view of the narrow majority at the last meeting and the fact that the strikers are in an increasingly isolated position, an earlier meeting, perhaps on Monday, could tip the balance in favour of a return to work.
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