BY R. W. Shakespeare
British Leyland has made a significant breakthrough in its plans to end the piecework system at its car manufacturing centres. The first 100 volunteers at the Austin-Morris car plant at Cowley, Oxford began training yesterday on assembly lines which will produce a new medium range model.
They became the first British Leyland car workers to be paid a flat rate of 18s. 6d. an hour under the new and controversial pay scheme which the management has introduced. They will eventually be joined by 1300 other assembly line workers on the new model who will get the new measured day work rate of £37 for a 40-hour week. The move follows a vote by 1200 men at the Cowley assembly works to accept the new pay plan, and the elimination of piece-work, in spite of the fact that it had been turned down by shop stewards.
Formal negotiations will continue. The British Leyland management had made a direct appeal to the workers concerned. It said that by doing away with the complex piece-work pattern and substituting a new guaranteed wage among the highest in the motor industry, it hoped to remove many of the causes of disputes and stoppages. Although the first of the new cars is expected to come off the assembly line next week, mass production of the new model, which is replacing the Morris 1000, now phased out of production, may be further delayed.
This is because similar proposals for a new pay system have been put to men at the nearby car body plant in Cowley, and these have been rejected by shop floor representatives. The dispute is being taken through the engineering industry’s disputes procedure, and fresh talks at local level will be held on Thursday. British Leyland has said it will not put the new model into full production until the new pay agreement is in force for all work on it. The fact that one important group of workers has accepted the new deal gives the management the “foothold” it has been seeking.