By Clifford Webb
Shop stewards at British Leyland’s Rover car plant were told yesterday that they must accept another 500 redundancies or start three-day working. The company has already called for 250 voluntary redundancies at the Solihull plant. So far only 150 applications have been received. Two months ago production of Rover cars was reduced from 950 a week to 630 and some workers were transferred to Land Rover or Range Rover production. Demand for these models is still buoyant and is not being met despite overtime. On the other hand, sales of Rover saloons have continued to fall despite a big advertising campaign emphasizing the low depreciation of Rover 2000 and 3500 saloons.
Shop stewards said yesterday that the company how plans to reduce output still further to around 450 a week. The unions are understood to favour short-time working and are pressing management to call in outside contract work. This makes a total of nearly 6,000 voluntary redundancies under way at Austin Morris Longbridge, Jaguar Coventry, Transmissions, Birmingham, Coventry engines and SU Carburetters, Birminglham. Union conveners from Ford, Vauxhall and Chrysler have been invited to meet British Leyland’s unofficial combined shop. stewards committee in Birmingham today to thrash out a united policy on redundancies.
Principal compolent manufacturers including Lucas and Dunlop are expected to send delegates. The meeting is expected to issue a warning that entforced redundancies will be answered by militant action including sit-ins. Mr. Eddie McGarry, joint chairman of the combined shop stewards, said last night: “We are prepared to recognize the difficulties of the motor manufacturers, but not to accept their solutions slavishly.”
New Cowley threat: Cowley car’ factories face another complete break in production on May 2 and May 5 when workers on the Marina lines are due to be laid off again. Production was resumed yesterday when the 5,000 workers returned after a two-day lay off and the 2,000 time workers who began a strike on Friday also went back, along with the 3,200 workers laid off by the dispute over British Leyland’s new lay-off proposals. This time the men in dispute are members of the Transport and General Workers’ Union. Local officials say it is the first time they have been on strike. The transport union wants the previous verbal agreement that time workers are laid off in only exceptional circumstances to continue.