By Clifford Webb Midlands Industrial Correspondent
Production of BL’s Metro and Mini cars was at a standstill again last night after, a walkout by 900 workers. They are demanding the reinstatement of eight colleagues, including four shop stewards, who were dismissed for gross misconduct last month. The men were involved in a near- riot at Longbridge when output stopped over a shortage of Metro seats.
The strike, at the only BL factory working full time, is a serious setback to the group’s improving image. it came on the day that Sir Michael Edwardes, BL chairman, defended his employees’ much improved performance, in a letter to The Times.
All four dismissed shop stewards are members of the Transport and General Workers’ Union which also represents most of the men on strike. Last night attempts were being made to have the strike declared official. The dispute has brought to the surface another clash between the TGWU and Mr Terence. Duffy’s more moderate Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers.
Mr John Barker, the TGWU full-time official responsible for Longbridge, said: “I am recommending that my union give full official backing to this strike. These men were picked on as ring-leaders of the demonstration at the plant last month. The shop stewards have clearly been, victimized for upsetting management. But my members at Longbridge have been pushed around too much by management to take this lying down. Ninety per cent of those on strike are my members so this is one time Mr Duffy won’t be able to pull BL out of the fire.”
Mr Bertram Benson, the AUEW’s Birmingham West district secretary who represented two of the men disciplined at appeal hearings this week, said: “I do not believe that unruly mobs act without some leadership. I am only prepared to defend properly organized demonstrations which have a place in the trade union movement.”
Further 1,300 jobs going at Leyland Vehicles By Clifford Webb
Leyland Vehicles, BL’s truck and bus subsidiary, has announced a second substantial cut in its labour force within a fortnight. At two Scotland plants, Bathgate, West Lothian and Albion, Works, Glasgow, 1300 workers are to lose their jobs. Nearly 1,400 redundancies were recently declared at Leyland, Preston, and Chorley.
A company spokesman said that with the United Kingdom market for trucks already at its lowest point on record and further sharp falls predicted for next year, Leyland Vehicles would still be overmanned. However, it was hoped that short-time working would enable the remainder to be retained to take advantage of any new business. He said urgent action had become necessary because with the United Kingdom market heading for 60,000 trucks this year compared with 80,000 last year it was predicted that 1981 would see a further substantial fall to 51,000.
Similar cutbacks had already taken place at all its major United Kingdom based competitors. An intensive sales campaign for the medium and light trucks made in Scotland was showing promise. In November, Leyland’s penetration increased for the fourth month in succession and was currently nearly 20 per cent compared with 15 per cent earlier in the year. This was the first marked increase in Leyland penetration for 10 years.
He said the new range of agricultural tractors launched this month at the Smithfield Show had also boosted sales.