By Clifford Webb,
Midland Industrial Correspondent
The three major motor unions have boycotted talks with British Leyland on a new pay deal designed to phase out controversial, piece work systems at the Austin-Morris car plant at Cowley, Oxford. The dispute is threatening production of a new Morris saloon, scheduled for introduction next spring.
The ‘Amalgamated Union of Engineering and Foundry Workers, the National Union of Vehicle Builders and the Transport and General Workers had agreed to take part in a works conference with management, under the terms of the peace formula which ended the recent strike of pieceworkers at Cowley Mr, Ian Showan, director and general manager at Cowley, yesterday circulated a letter to the 6000 employees pointing out that talks had been arranged for Wednesday, but the unions had refused to attend.
The matter was of such importance that all employees should have a copy of the company’s proposals based on a flat rate of 18s. 6d. an hour. The three page document emphasized that security of employment for thousands in the Oxford area depended on the success of the new car and the company’s ability to establish and maintain a high volume of production at a price which customers throughout the world were willing to pay. During the past 12 months production had been constantly disrupted by strikes.
In the past financial year 50,000 cars were lost at Cowley due to strikes, most of them arising from the operation of piecework. The company believed that management, unions and employees had a joint,responsibility to eliminate this principle cause of friction and lost wages.
The letter said that during the past year a large number of production workers had operated a new form-of payment known as “controlled piecework” which provided a flat rate of pay for a specified production The result was a dramatic reduction in the number of disputes and strikes in the sections which had operated the new system. The company believed that this justified the introduction of a similar system for the new model and subsequently across the whole factory.