By Clifford Webb Midland Industrial Correspondent
British Leyland is being made to pay dearly for its determination to replace piecework with a flat rate system of payment at Austin-Morris, Longbridge. Pay strikes there have now disrupted production on every working day since the beginning of the year. Losses are running at some £900.000 worth of cars daily.
Last night 5,150 employees were laid off at Longbridge and the group’s Castle Bromwich body plant as a result of the latest strike involving 1,000 assembly workers. Production of a new model due for release next month is at a stand still and like the much postponed Triumph Dolomite may have to be put back. Management is believed to be particularly angered by the latest strike, as it comes within days of the works committee finally agreeing to enter formal negotiations to drop piecework.
Management can- not understand why these workers have not accepted a £3 a week interim payment similar to that made last week to engine workers. Both sides then seemed to be satisfied with the interim payment solution to the deadlock which had arisen following the company’s refusal to offer any increase unless part of a flat rate system. The shop stewards originally insisted that piecework rates should be adjusted upwards before talks on a changeover got under way.
For management to concede a piecework increase now would lead to a flood of similar requests. But the number of continuing piecework strikes at Triumph and Jaguar, the last remaining strongholds of this system in the group, seem to have convinced Mr George Turnbull. Austin-Morris managing director, that whatever the price, in the long term he cannot afford to delay the confrontation at Longbridge any longer.
Production was again at a standstill last night because of a strike, this time by 300 clerical workers. They are due to meet today.