By R. W. Shakespeare Northern Industrial Correspondent
After eight days of disruption during which up to 10,000 workers have been made idle and car production worth more than £9m has been lost, British Leyland appears to have won its battle to use industrial engineers for work measurement and work study projects at its Austin Morris car plant at Cowley, Oxford.
Shop stewards who have been leading a campaign of militant resistance to the use of the engineers, in spite of union agreement to cooperate in work study arrangements, got a rebuff yesterday when a mass meeting of more than 5,000 car assembly workers voted by a four to one majority to reject the stewards’ recommendation that the campaign should go on. After the meeting the assembly men returned to work and another 2,400 men in the adjoining body plant who had been laid off because of the dispute were recalled.
Car production at Cowley, at a standstill since Monday of last week, should be back to normal today. More than 9,000 cars in the Marina and Maxi ranges have been lost in the past eight days since the stewards objected to the use of what they called “stop watch overseers “. Only a minority of workers followed the shop stewards’ instruction to refuse to work, but the disruption was enough to stop all production and cause massive lay offs.
The shop stewards argued that the work measurement exercises will lead to redundancies. However, when one senior shop steward told the meeting that if workers accepted the engineers they would have to accept the consequences, he was shouted down. British Leyland still has some serious labour problems to face both at Cowley and elsewhere. The pay agreement at Cowley is being renegotiated.
The unions claim increases of up to £7 a week to reach parity with Austin Morris workers of Birmingham. The management has replied with an offer which is within Phase Two and it would give in- creases of about £2.40 a week. This has been rejected and the management has invoked the second stage of BLMC’s- new disputes procedure under which full time union leaders will become involved.