By GEOFFREY WHITELEY Labour Staff
British Leyland succeeded last night in re-opening production lines for its Mini range , which has been idle for nearly two weeks because of a strike at a components firm , by importing essential , parts from Italy. But as it did so, the shortage of components normally supplied by the Dunlop factories in Coventry bit deeply into other sections of the BLMC production range. From today, output of the new 18/22 range, the Marina, and of the Maxi will be at a standstill at the company’s plant at Cowley, near Oxford.
A total of 7,500, workers will be laid off at the plant until further notice. No models in the Allegro range are being made at the company’s Longbridge plant, in Birmingham , but the resumed output of Minis at least the temporary recall to work of 5,700 workers who had been laid off indefinitely. The fresh disruption at Cowley, however , will increase the total number of British Leyland workers made idle by the Dunlop dispute. Nearly 12,000 will be laid off today at Longbridge and Cowley.
The resumption of Mini production , follows British Leyland’s decision to reimport suspension units made by Dunlop for the Innocenti factory, at Milan. These are identical to units used for Mini production , in this country and were not needed immediately by the Italian manufacturers. A British Leylarid spokesman said: “They should provide us with several days production.”
British Leyland clearly hopes that the few days, of breathing space which the imported supplies will provide will allow sufficient time for a solution to the two week old strike at Dunlop which has disorganised output at its two biggest plants. But there were no signs yesterday that these, hopes, will be fulfilled.
The Dunlop factories are sole suppliers of the specialised suspension units now used on most British Leyland cars. The plants also make about 70 per cent of the wheels used in the British car industry. Wheel shortages have not yet reached serious proportions in other parts of the car industry, but several other factories in the British Leyland group are running into difficulties. Among them are the Triumph plants on Merseyside, where about 4,000 workers will be idle by the weekend because of the parts shortage.