Archive : Fresh troubles halt Cowley assembly lines

By R. W. Shakespeare

British Leyland has run into more labour troubles. Yesterday several car assembly lines were at a standstill with about 10,000 workers idle through strikes and lay-offs and more car production and jobs are threatened. At Cowley, Oxford, where Marina production was resumed only this week after a standstill that cost £10m worth of production and made 6.400 workers idle, all of the car lines were halted yesterday and more than 7,000 workers had to be sent home.

The new trouble was caused when 150 forklift truck drivers walked out in protest against the suspension of lay-off pay during the recent dispute on the Marina assembly lines. Their action halted output of Marinas, Maxis and 1300 cars. Under agreement made with the unions lay-off pay guarantees are suspended when a stoppage results from a dispute within the plant. The standstill at Longbridge has alreadv cost £5m worth of Mini production.

About 2,500 workers have been laid off for more than a week. Now production of other models at Longbridge, including the Allegro range, together with car production at some other British Leyland centres is at risk and thousands more workers could be facing lay-offs before the Easter holidays begin tomorrow night.

The disruption at Longbridge results from a dispute at the British Leyland owned SU Carburettors factory at Birmingham where a strike by 380 workers and the lay off of 460 others stopped production for the whole of last week. Although the majority of the strikers returned to work on Monday pending fresh talks on a pay claim a group of seven electricians has refused to call off their stopppge. After a meeting yesterday they again refused to return to work. In addition to carrying out essential maintenance work these electricians are responsible for starting up many of the production processes and without them most of the labour force cannot work.

A British Leyland spokesman said yesterday: “The position is extremely serious and stocks of carburettors for other models are running out.”

Keith Adams

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