By R. W. Shakespeare
As British Leyland’s Austin-Morris car plant at Cowley, Oxford, begins its first vehicle production of the week today- the first of its “power on” days, about 3,000 key workers are being urged by management to attend a mass meeting to review an overtime ban, If the 3,000 “indirect” workers, the men who provide the essential back-up service for the assembly lines and production areas-go ahead with the ban, which was announced by their shop stewards earlier this week, it will reduce shifts from 10 hours to eight hours today and tomorrow, and rule out Saturday working.
This will lead to a 16-hour week for 19,000 workers. Stewards representing the indirect workers are demanding that an agreement covering lay- off pay for four days in a week should be extended to cover every week that the power crisis regulations operate. The management has re-minded the men that this agreement has a limiting clause and can apply only once in any set of circumstances. However, it has offered the indirect workers the same lay-off pay arrangements as other workers in the Cowley complex. These give up to 80 per cent of ‘normal rates for days when men are made idle.
The problem at Cowley is that as in most other car plants the lay-off agreements have strict time limits. They cover only a specific number of days in each three-month period. And at Cowley, these agreements have now been exhausted for most workers. This means that if the three-day week continues after this weekend workers will only get paid for the time they are actually at work. British Leyland’s car output has already been cut by about 40 per cent, because of the power restrictons. If the over- time ban goes ahead at Cowley, output there could be down to perhaps 25 per cent of normal levels.
For all of the 19,000 workers it would mean pay packets containing only a fraction of normal earnings which are mostly around £50 for a basic 40 hours.