Electricians At B.M.C. To Stay Out
From Our Correspondent
BIRMINGHAM, MAY 25
After meetings today of men from the British Motor Corporation’s tractor and transmissions factory at Birmingham, where 55 electricians are on strike, it appeared tonight that the strike will go on.
The stoppage has made more than 20,000 workers idle at nine B.M.C. factories. This afternoon there was a meeting of trade unionists at the factory after which it was reported that they had decided to return to work. The report said that those who had reached this decision included machine operators who had previously refused to operate machines normally maintained by the striking electricians.
A B.M.C. official said: ” If sufficient men report for work on Monday production will be resumed at the factory and it may be then possible to resume work at other plants.” Reports about the meeting were later denied by Mr Arthur Harper, an Amalgamated Engineering Union member and works convener at the factory. He said it was a complete fabrication to say that 2,000 union members had attended the meeting and had made the return to work decision. He claimed that only 600 workers were present, that the meeting had been initiated by the management and that those present consisted mainly of workers not affected by the strike.
Mr Harper added that there would be strong picket lines outside the factory and a meeting of trade unionists at the factory was to be held early on Monday. Mr Jack Bolas, area secretary of the Electrical Trades Union, said the strikers considered that the management’s pay offer was unsatisfactory and that the management were making no serious attempt to settle the dispute by negotiation. They regretted that other trade unionists were involved, but pointed out that their own members were sacrificing their wages and had no other source of income.
No statement could be obtained late tonight from B.M.C. officials. The reference in the earlier B.M.C. statement to possible resumption of work presumably referred to the machine operators-there are 265-at the plant who had refused to operate machines which they declared “black”. These men belong to the A.E.U. Mr F. Foulkes, president of the E.T.U., said in London yesterday that he was prepared to meet anybody at any time to discuss the dispute and to overcome the difficulty the industry is facing at the moment. This is the first time that a member of the union’s executive has publicly intervened. The four-man committee controlling the union between meetings of the executive is expected to discuss the electricians, strike next week. None of the strikers is receiving strike pay, because the strike has not yet been endorsed. Endorsement is the E.T.U.’s equivalent of declaring the strike official. An alternative course for the committee would be to send the men back to work on a promise of a resumption of negotiations in which national officers would take part.