By R. W. Shakespeare Northern Industrial Correspondent
A new agreement for workers in the prestige Jaguar car plant, is due , to be signed within the next day or two. It means that British Leyland has largely achieved the main objective of the labour relations strategy drawn up by Mr Pat Lowry who was recruited from the Engineering Employers Federation to become the corporation’s director of industrial relations.
More than 80 per cent of British Leyland’s total shop floor force of some 120,000 workers will have been transferred from the long-standing piecework system of payment by results to new wage structures based on fixed earnings levels for a basic working week. Jaguar will in fact be the last of the major car production centres in BLMC to make the change.
There are residual problems over the 8,000 workers in the five bus and truck division factories in Lancashire, where management proposals for a reformed pay structure came to grief during the Phase Two period. Hopefully a settlement will be reached there during Phase Three. Mr Lowry’s view, based on his long experience at the EEF, was that pieceworking, with its “jungle” system of rate fixing for each separate job at shop floor level, was the biggest single cause of lost production through disputes. The unions were openly hostile at the outset.
Mr Lowry chose the huge Austin-Morris car plant at Cowley as his starting point and militant shop steward opposition to the new wage proposals got a lot of shop- floor support, involving a long and costly strike. In the end the Cowley management, under Mr Lowry’s guidance, gambled heavily by announcing the unilateral introduction of the new flat rate wage svstem, and the workers accepted it.
The deal gave men on the production line guaranteed earnings of around £42 for a 40-hour week , the highest flat rate in the motor industry at that time. And it was crucial to the launch of the new Marina volume car range.