LORRY DRIVERS DISPUTE HALTS CAR FACTORIES
By Geoffrey Whitely
Thousands of Midlands car workers will be idle today because of a lorry drivers pay dispute which has stopped the supply of components to many factories. Among the worst affected will be the main British Leyland car assembly factory at Longbridge, Birmingham , where production stopped last night.
Night-shift workers were sent home from the Longbridge factory. By this morning about 7,700 BLMC car workers at Longbridge, Castle Bromwich , Swindon, Abingdon and Cowley will be idle. The disruption is threatening other car plants, including Jaguar Daimler, and Triumph at Coventry. Four hundred employees have already been laid off at the Birmingham factory which makes bodies for Triumph sports cars.
The dispute concerns more than 1,000 Midlands drivers employed by British Road Services. They have demanded an extra £2.50 a week for driving heavy vehicles, a bonus which they say is already paid to employees of other firms in the area . The drivers reported for work yesterday without their goods vehicle licences and were unable to take out lorries normally used for ferrying car bodies and other components to assembly factories. At Longbridge, components for the Mini range ran out at lunchtime, but those for other ranges lasted until the end of the day shifts.
British Road Services is seeking an early meeting of the road transport industry’s joint negotiating committee to discuss the dispute. Mr Kenneth Cook, the managing director of Midlands BRS Ltd, said that the earnings of maximum capacity drivers in the area averaged £43 a week. The Government’s prices and incomes policy prevented the payment of the drivers claim at present, he claimed, but the management was willing to explore existing agreements which allowed for increased payment for improved efficiency.
The offer was unacceptable to Mr Alan Law, the Transport and General Workers Union official who represents the drivers. He said last night that the drivers would not meet to discuss the dispute , “until the management comes up with proposals that I think I can recommend.”