By R. W. SHAKESPEARE,
Northern Industrial Correspondent
The 8500 workers from five British Leyland Vehicle factories in Lancashire will be returning to work on Monday morning after their five week long strike. They have won from the company the full pay increases they were demanding. But the company, for its part, now has a firm agreement with the shop floor representatives on the works committee that there can be no further across the board pav increases unless they are linked to copper bottomed productivity schemes.
At a mass meeting of the strikers here today only five votes were cast against accepting the settlement formula that was thrashed out in eight hours of negotiation between top level union and management teams in York yesterday. Len Brindle, senior works con-venor at Leylands who took part jn the negotiations, explained the deal to the men and recommended its acceptance. In practice, it means that piecework rates in the Leyland factories, and at Chorley near by. are being adjusted to make it possible for skilled workers to earn in a 40-hour week a wage of £23 13S 8d. compared with the pre- strike average of just over £21.
They can earn more if their raise their output, and there will also be a higher starting rate for new recruits and improved piece work bonuses for women workers. Mr. Brindle told the meeting: “We have a written assurance that once we go back into the factories we will eventually be able to sign a document on your behalf which will also be signed by the company.. You have my assurance that that document will meet your needs.”
Mr. Brindle described the settlement as “just and reasonable”, said that broadly speaking it met all the points on which the strike had occurred. He added: “We have a foundation, but it is only a foundation. and we will have to build on it through the normal channels of debate and negotiation.”
Later at a news conference Ron Ellis, managing director of the British Leyland bus and truck division, of which the five factories form a large part, said the shop stewards had accepted that there could in future be no across the board pay claims and that any claims that were put in would have to be ticd to productivity. The Leyland strike was the first big labour dispute in the Lancashire factories since the General Strike of 1926. and has cost the com- pany some £8m. in lost production. He said the new piece work rates that had been agreed did not create a higher wages platform from which the men would start but they did create the opportunity for men to earn higher wages depending on how hard they worked.
Mr. Ellis said: “Across the board increases without regard to productivity throughout the plants are not on in future.”
He said the shop stewards had accepted that productivity considerations must be imposed on wage increases to prevent escalation of costs that would affect the company’s competitiveness. Thev were only too well aware, as was the company, that both the Italians and the Germans were waiting for the British vehicle industry to become less competitive. Asked why he thought it had taken five weeks to settle the dispute. Mr. Ellis admitted that both sides had “made some mistakes.” He thought the strike action had been ” a little hasty”, but at the same time the company had “not fully appreciated the emotional tenor behind the strike.”
He said: “Possibly we misjudged the temperature of the workers.”
The settlement of the Leyland strike, the first big labour dispute in the Lancashire factories since the general strike of 1926, and one that has cost the company some Â£8m. in lost production, may be counted as another considerable tribute to the negotiating skill of Pat Lowry, director of the Engineering Employers Federation and its chief industrial “trouble shooter”.
Hopes rest on Issigonis
Sir Alec Issigonis, creator of the Mini, the first British car to pass the two million production mark, is hard at work on new designs that British Leyland claims will put its future cars well in front of the competition. Sir Alec, knighted in the Birthday Honours for his services to the car industry. was a passenger in the two millionth mini when it was driven off the production line at Longbridge yesterday by George Turnbull managing director of the Austin Morris division.
In the brief ceremony afterwards, Mr Turnbull said: “Alec is British Leyland’s secret weapon. No one else in the car industry has anyone quite in his class. He is essentially a man of vision. of long term thinking, but always with a revolutionary approach to design problems. We don’t care how way out his ideas are. We can soon put them through the commercial mincer.”
Mr. Turnbull said Sir Alec lssigonis is going to bring forward a long list of new ideas, technical innovations and new design features well ahead of anyone else.