Archive : Leyland rebel the bosses dare not hire faces new threat

By Mark Douglas Home

Every day Mike Savage, the anti-strike rebel who quit his job with British Leyland rather than face a union ‘court,’follows the same routine. He scans the situations vacant columns in the newspapers. Since he left Longbridge three weeksago he has applied for 20 jobs—and everytime he has been turned down. Mr Savage said: ‘They ask, ‘ What’s your name?’ and I say: ‘ Mike Savage.’ And then there is a little hesitation and they say: ‘ Not Mike Savage from Longbridge?’ ‘I say: ‘Does that make a difference?’and they say:’ Well, Mr Savage we have got our own union problems.’

‘I dont blame them.’

But now there is another threat to Mr Savage’s job prospects. His union card is at risk. A letter from the Transport and General Workers’ Union summoning him to a meeting has dropped on his doormat. The letter reads:

‘Dear Sir and Brother, As you have been made aware, a complaint was made against you in writing by Brother R. Ward. It concerns your conduct on Friday 31 August 1979 in calling an unconstitutional meeting of the Longbridge workers with aims to bring the T.G.W.U. into disrepute. Would you please present yourself, before the 5/908 branch committee on Friday19 October 1979 at 8 p.m. prompt.

Yours fraternally
G. Hewitt, Branch Secretary.’

But Mr Savage, who resigned rather than face a ‘kangaroo court,’has no intention of attending in an act of defiance which he thinks will lead to him losing his union card. He said from his home at Great Barr, Birmingham: ‘I will be sending them a letter and I will ask that the letter be read out to the court. I haven’t composed it yet. But I will be telling them exactly why my actions were brought into to being. They forced me Into it simply because they refused to hold a democratic vote on the strike.’

Mr Savage, who earned £80 a week as a production worker on the Mini, was leader of the Longbridge revolt against the strike called by the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions. Mr Hewitt the TGWU branch secretary, who wrote to Mr Savage, said:

‘If he doesn’t turn up the committee will fix another date. We would write him another letter and we would probably tell him in that letter that if he doesn’t turn up again the case will be heard in his absence.’

Mr Hewitt said the committee could recommend that his union card be taken away but he had never known that to happen. Today 40-year-old Mr Savage is preparing to take on any work he can find just to earn some money for his wife Pat and his three children. He adamantly refuses to collect unemployment pay. He said: ‘That’s something tha t ‘ s in-bred. My father wouldn’t do it and I won’t. My wife goes along with that although she’s extremely worried about the future. Eventually your bank balance goes down to nothing. We are existing on my wife’s pay at the moment.’

But even for Mr Savage there is a bright side to life. He has received 5,000 letters of support from all over the country.

Keith Adams

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