THE TIMES BUSINESS NEWS FRIDAY
PROGRESS IN SPITE OF STRIFE By R. W. SHAKESPEARE
The three-week-old strike by 8,599 workers which has brought five British Leyland plants in Lancashire to a standstill is likely to be declared official by the Amalgamated Union of Engineering and Foundry Workers when its national executive meets in London on Tuesday.
A recommendation that this should be done is expected to be made to the executive by Hugh Scanlon, the A.E.F. president. The news was greeted with cheers by strikers at a mass meeting in Leyland’s yesterday when they voted overwhelmingly, only three hands went up in opposition, to continue the stoppage. Harry Banks, a divisional organizer of the A.E.F. told the packed meeting at the British Leyland sports ground that Mr Scanlon fully supported the Leyland workers in their dispute and had indicated that he would recommend to the executive on Tuesday that the strike should be officially recognized by the union.
Mr Banks added: “You will receive strike benefit on behalf of the A.E.F. and other unions are bound to follow suit.” He said strike pay, at the rate of Â£3 15s. a week, would be backdated to the start of the dispute (the strike began on May 19). Copies of the works newspaper circulated among the strikers before the meeting yesterday, contained a statement by Lord Stokes, British Leyland chairman in which he warned that a recent series of strikes in the group were putting the jobs of many of its 168,000 employees in 60 British plants in jeopardy.
The statement brought a sharp reply from Mr Scanlon. In an interview, during a break in the T.U .C .s emergency conference yesterday, he accused Lord Stokes of being guilty of “industry blackmail”. Mr. Scanlon said that rather than ” rushing in with autocratic instructions” it would be a better service if both the company and the unions were to examine the causes of the dispute. Following the ” strike on” decision yesterday and the announcement by Mr Banks, another union leader Charles Gallagher.
Assistant general secretary of the National Union of Vehicle Builders. told me that if the A.E.F. declared the strike official his own union, which has only about 200 to 300 members on strike, would be bound to take the same course. He believed that other unions, such as the Trans- port and General Workers Union, with a small minority of members in the factories compared with the huge A.E.F. membership, would also follow suit. In the event, a union decision to make the strike official, although it will be bound to bring them under fire for backing “unconstitutional action “, could serve to shorten the strike.
The strike so far is estimated to have involved production delays to some Â£5m. worth of vehicles, engines and components. more than Â£2m. of wvhich are due for export.
Pressed Steel-Fisher dispute on again
Less than 48 hours after it was called off. the pipefitters’ demarcation dispute at Pressed Steel-Fisher, Cowley, broke out again yesterday. All production of car bodies stopped at midday and 2,500 workers were laid off. The plant supplies a large section of the motor industry.
Last night a Rootes spokesman said: “We are assessing this latest development. I expect a decision to be taken tomorrow on further lay- offs.”
British Leyland stopped production of its new Maxi saloon at lunchtime yesterday and laid off 250 at Cowley and 650 at MG. Abingdon. Rover. Solihull, laid off 1,500 assembly workers last night and all car production was at a standstill.
Jaguar to sell ‘ unfinished’ cars
By GEOFFREY CHARLES, Motoring Correspondent
The effect of the motor industry’s strikes will soon be showing in the appearance of Jaguar’s Â£2,000 to Â£2,623 XJ6 saloons. Those being delivered to the home market during the next few weeks are being fitted with temporary wire mesh radiator grilles and metal cover plates to the various front air ducts in place of the distinctive pressure die-castings which form the cars’ normal wear. Supplies of the standard front end fittings have been almost exhausted since the cessation of deliveries, as a result of a prolonged strike at the suppliers’ factory.
A spokesman for Jaguar’s at Coventry said yesterday: – “When customers have had to wait many months for their car, we feel they ought to be given the opportunity of accepting the car in this partially unfinished state, rather than have to wait for a further indefinite period until these items are available. Of course, we will ensure that as soon as supplies return to normal, the correct grilles will be fitted by the retailer concerned free of charge to the customer. We are very proud of the appearance of our cars, and only in a very difficult situation such as this would we consider an expedient of this nature.”
Such a move is unprecedented in Jaguars, but with their current extensive waiting list for the XJ6, which was introduced last September, it was clearly a practical decision. The supplier, Wolverhampton Die, casting, has been strike-bound for more than a month, and the present strike was preceded by a fortnight’s go-slow by workers at the plant
A spokesman said yesterday: “The strike itself is not settled yet but we have started some work this week. Even so, it will take us at least four weeks to catch up. It is a very sorry situation.”
The Wolverhampton company supply fittings to all the major British car makers. For Jaguar, the temporary operation will cost about Â£5 a car.