By Our Northern Industrial Correspondent
No vehicles are being completed at British Leyland’s bus and truck factories at Leyland, Lancashire, normally one of the group’s top export earners, because of a dispute over a new pay deal. Already some 2,300 workers have been laid off and with no signs of a settlement in sight it is probable that more of the total labour force of 8,500 in the five Lancashire plants will be stopped at the weekend.
As part of its overall plan to phase out the piecework system in all its vehicle manufacturing plants, the British Leyland management is trying to negotiate a new wage deal in the Lancashire factories. The main stumbling block is the limitation imposed by Phase Two of the Government’s pay policy.
The company has prepared a “package” based on the total sum represented by a 4 per cent increase in its wage bill plus £1 for each of the 8,500 workers. However, it wants to make graded pay increases, to iron out some of the existing anomalies in earnings, and at the same time consolidate a large part of the present piecework payments into new fixed hourly rates. The object would be to have at least 80 per cent of every man’s wages determined by new standard rates with only 20 per cent geared to an incentive scheme.
Under the existing total piece- work system, these percentages are in most cases reversed. The management’s proposals have been rejected both by plant negotiators and shop floor meetings. The workers claim that the price the corporation is willing to pay for changing the wage system-the most it is allowed to pay under Phase Two-is not high enough particularly when compared with deals made at the Cowley and Longbridge car plants before the Government’s pay limitations were imposed.
The dispute now becomes increasingly difficult to resolve because shop floor negotiators have apparently decided to abandon any attempts to reach agreement on graded pay increases and revert to demands for a straight across the board pay rise for everyone. Using the £1 plus 4 per cent formula, this would give all workers an increase of about £2.40 a week.