Archive : Factory sit-in goes on after union advice is rejected

By GEOFFREY WHITELEY, Northern Labour Correspondent

Workers at the BLMC heavy transmissions plant at Basingstoke, Hampshire, yesterday rejected union advice, resisted management pressures, and voted to continue the factory occupation now in its ninth week. About 700 workers at the plant are sitting in and protesting against the decision to sell the business to an American company. They claim that jobs will be lost and that a vital part of the BLMC production process will pass into the hands of overseas owners.

All workers at the factory attended a meeting called by leaders of eight union s to vote on proposals which emerged from talk s last week. Shop stewards said the proposals were rejected by about 400 votes to 300, “mainly because they failed to give sufficient guarantees about future employment. ”

A statement by the joint union occupation committee said the proposals were not considered ” sufficient basis for abandoning their action. ”

The workers leaders , however , said they hoped to have further talks with BLMC within days in an attempt to improve the terms. The decision presents problems for management and unions. BLMC gave every indication last night of wishing to play the issue in as low a key as possible. It has hinted that lay-offs might have to begin at other plants because of the shortage of components normally supplied by Basingstoke.

But lay offs are deferred for the present. The management is clearly determined not to inflame tempers throughout the rest of its truck and bus division, where there have been threats of supporting strike action by about 16,000 workers. This means that BLMC will have to sustain considerable production losses at its truck and bus factory at Southall, which has run out of transmission units made at Basingstoke.

The unofficial shop stewards combine which represents workers in the 17 truck and bus factories owned by BLMC has its problems. Although the stewards have promised complete support for the Basingstoke workers, some members are understood to be apathetic about a supporting strike. A further meeting of the combined shop stewards committee, drawn from factories in London , the South-west, Lancashire, the Midlands , and Scotland , may be held next week.

In Coventry, the strike by 50 security officers at the Triumph car plant, which has been disrupting production all week, brought the factory to a standstill. More than 8,000 workers were laid off by the end of the day. The security men have picketed the factory gates and have turned away lorries bringing components from other plants. They continued their strike in spite of new talks between union officials and management. They have recently been awarded phased pay increases worth £4, but are complaining that a new method of calculating overtime could lose them most of the increase.

Keith Adams

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