By CLIFFORD WEBB,
Midland Industrial Correspondent
With truck and bus losses approaching Â£2m. and millions of pounds of export orders in danger, British Leyland last night warned the 8,500 strikers at its Lancashire plants that their own jobs were now threatenied. In the first detailed statement by the company since the strike began 20 days ago, it said that the present dispute was seriously jeopardizing the company’s international trading position and could wvell make it difficult to keep the factory at fuli emplovment in future if contidence in its ability to deliver, especially overseas, was seriously impaired as it is at the moment.
The statement emphasized that Leyland is the only major commercial vehicle producer in the United Kingdom not controlled by America. If Leyland. and the remainder of the group, could not operate without continuing successions of unnecessary interruptions to production, then, ” the future of the British-owned sector of the motor industry is very bleak indeed ” .
It denied strikers’ claims that wage negotiations had been unduly prolonged and pointed out that the oflicial claim for a large part of the work force was received only on April 30. This was later modified by shop stewards on May 8, only seven working days before the men walked out. It reiterated its intention to negotiate within the framework of the national agreement in the engineering industry-only after the men have returned to work. Barbara Castle’s Department of Employment and Productivity intervened officially after the break- down of Monday’s talks between British Leyland, the Engineering Employers Federation. and an A.E.F. team led by Hugh Scanlon. the union’s president.
Yesterday Roy Hattersley, Joint Under-Secretary at the D.E.P., met leaders of the Engineering Employers Federation and today He is to meet Mr. Scanlon in an attempt to find common ground to bring the two sides together again. He has impressed on both parties the urgency of doing this before the strikers’ mass meeting on Thursday.
There was better news from the rest ot the industry last night. Normal production was resumed at Pressed Steel Fisher’s car body plant at Cowley. which had thrown 6500 men out of work and stopped production at M.G. Abingdon, Maxi production at Morris Motors, Cowley, Rootes at Ryton and Rover at Solihull. Recall notices went out yesterday for assembly lines to start up again at Rover today, and Rootes on Thursday. The strike which shut Morris Engines at Coventry and caused 3400 to be laid off on Monday has also ended.