By Clifford Webb Midland Industrial Correspondent
Angry Jaguar shop stewards complained last night that the surprise intervention of Sir William Lyons, the company’s founder and president, was an attempt to frighten men back to work. Instead, they said, it had only strengthened the strikers’ determination to see the struggle through to the end.
In his first comment since the strike began nearly 10 weeks ago, Sir William, who recently retired as the company’s chief executive said that the stoppage could cause such serious export losses that the jobs of 3000 employees were in danger. His warning was discussed at yesterday’s meeting of the shop stewards’ strike committee. It was said by some ,members to have influenced the decision to stay out and not to meet again before next Wednesday.
The company had hoped that the committee would call another meeting of the 2,000 strikers after the disappointing turnout at a similar meeting a week earlier when the company’s latest offer was rejected. Mr Mick Richards, the committee chairman, told Business News last night: “We have made all the running so far in approaches to the company for terms which would permit a return to work. The mood of the men is now more militant than ever following the company’s refusal to make any concessions. The next move is now up to them. Unless they make an approach with something better I can see this strike going on for a long time yet.”
He said the men’s reaction to Sir William’s intervention was adequately summed up by a senior shop steward: “Sir William’s statement has put up the men’s backs. It seems it is always the workers who are to blame for everything. What people do not realize is that for car workers conditions at Jaguar are among the worst in the district.”
The company has said that it has no intention of improving its latest offer. This amounts to £44 a week-an average increase of £3- together with 80 per cent of normal earnings when laid off, and a lump sum payment of up to £108 to begin discussions on the introduction of a new flat rate system of payment.