By Clifford Webb Midland Industrial Correspondent
British Leyland last night warned several thousand workers at its Cowley, Oxford car body plant that it was not possible to continue operations. The company says that restricted working in support of a pay claim was “causing complete dislocation of production”.
Unless there was an immediate resumption of normal working. it said, it would have no alternative but to take action. The company refused to say what action was being contemplated but it was widely interpreted as a threatened lockout. The warning was contained in a personal letter from Mr D. J. Simpson. the plant director. to.each of the production workers on the Marina and Maxi body lines.
Mr Simpson said he was gravely concerned about the effect of the restricted working on the company’s trading prospects. The competitive situation was such that failure to deliver cars on time and in the right quantity could have most damaging results. After setting out management efforts to obtain a fair settlement of the men’s pay claim, he said their present industrial action was in breach of agreement and had nullified any understanding that the pay award would be made retrospective.
British Leyland’s efforts to increase production of the Morris Marina to meet record demand from home and overseas markets have been frustrated by the month old ban on overtime and other restrictions. The restrictions are particularly damaging at present because 4,000 men in the adjoining assembly plant recently withdrew similar action following acceptance of a new £40.20 a week pay deal. The traditionally more militant body plant is holding out for more money still.