By Clifford Webb
Midland Industrial Correspondent
The Jaguar strike, now in its ninth week, is to continue. A mass meeting of strikers yesterday ignored the advice of union leaders and their own shop stewards and rejected the management’s latest pay offer. The voting of 652 against the offer and 397 in favour showed, however, that only half the 2,000 men on strike attended the crucial meeting.
Mr Fred Palmer, Coventry area organizer of the vehicle builders’ section of the Transport and General Workers’ Union, said: “We are all extremely puzzled by the very poor turnout and intend to carry out a full investigation into the causes. It has been suggested that it was due to poor communications, men not knowing that the meeting was taking place. But I find this very hard to accept when the offer and the decision to hold a mass meeting today were splashed in local newspapers and reported in several national papers.”
Mr Palmer was “extremely disappointed ” by the decision to stay out.
“We spent eight or nine hours with the company on Friday and I believe we squeezed them for the last drop available at that time. It may be that we can return to the negotiating table and come back with a little more. but I am convinced that what we shall get will not be worth the men staying out for another week”, he said. The company had made significant concessions in the latest offer, said Mr Palmer. Although the basic rate of £44 for a 40-hr week was not an improvement in money terms on the offer made a week ago, it was no longer conditional on manning changes.
“It means the men would now get another £4 a week for no extra work. Under the proposed manning changes they would have been required to do 10 per cent more work.”
He said the company had also increased the lump sum payment from a maximum of £25 per head to £80 and made this conditional on acceptance of talks on the replacement of piecework. This was very different from £25 and agreement by, the men to the principle of a flat day rate instead of piecework.
Another concession was an increase in layoff pay from 75 per cent of full shift pay to 80 per cent and this would be forthcoming even if work was held up by strikes in other parts of British Leyland, but not in Jaguar itself. The previous offer had excluded payment if Jaguar production was affected by strikes anywhere in the group. The company said last night that the effects of a prolonged stoppage could only be disastrous and its continuation would inevitably result in consequences which no one wanted to contemplate.
“We must reiterate what we have said throughout this dispute, we are not prepared to increase piecework prices. It should also be clearly understood that we are not prepared to increase the latest offer.”
It was learnt yesterday that the offer was acceptable to the strike committee by a vote of 16 to 10.