By Simon Beavis
Nearly 5,000 workers were laid off yesterday when Jaguar , the luxury car maker, suspended production at its three plants until Monday in a worsening dispute over the dismissal of a senior shop steward who used a photocopier. The dispute centres on the storesroom at the company’s Brown’s Lane plant in Coventry, and the failure of talks between managers and a local union official to reach a conclusion over the sacking of Mr Tommy Wheeler.
When eight storesroom workers walked out yesterday morning and announced that they would not return until next Monday, the company sent home 2,000 workers at Brown’s Lane, 1,200 workers at the Radford engine plant , and a further 1,500 workers at the bodywork factory in Castle Bromwich.
Last Monday the whole storesroom walked out in Mr Wheeler’s support , and the company laid off the Brown’s Lane plant. With each day’s lost production likely to cost Â£5 million at show room prices, the stoppages will by Monday have cost the company an estimated Â£20 million.
Mr Wheeler was dismissed last week after being found photocopylng a newsletter for the local Labour MP, Mr Dave Nellist, on stress at work , and on Friday he lost, an internal appeal against the sacking. Production returned to normal on Tuesday when the stores workers went back after the company agreed to discuss the dismissal with a local officer of the Transport and General Workers union. The talks were continuing yesterday. A union official said the storemen were angry that the talks had not produced an answer. They would report back at 7.30 am on Monday.
The company is currently urging unions to accept a two-year pay settlement and on Monday increased its offer to include a 3.5 per cent increase in each of the two years. The unions are, however, arguing for a one-year deal.