By R. W. Shakespeare
Prospects of government intervention in British Leyland are generally welcomed by the car unions, which throughout this year have been increasingly worried by employment prospects. Since January BLMC’s. shop-floor labour force has been reduced by about 10,000 through “natural wastage”.
It is clear that the issue of worker participation will be one that is strongly pressed on the Government from trade union quarters. Last night Mr Bob Crook, district secretary of the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers at Preston and responsible for the area in which British Leyland’s five bus and truck factories operate stressed this point.
Mr Crook, who is also district secretary of the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions said: “We believe that a capital injection is necessary, but I would hope that if the Government is going to inject some money, then there should be some public control of the situation. By that I think that worker participation in that control would be part of the deal.”
Any misgivings that there were about yesterday’s announcement seemed to be based on a fear that the Government might not be ready to go far enough in its plans for a public stake in British Leyland. Mr Eddie McGarry of the Transport and General Workers’ Union, convener at Rover Triumph and chairman of the British Leyland joint shop stewards combine, possibly the most powerful shopfloor organization in British industry, said that if the public was going to have a financial stake in British Leyland there must not only be public accountability, but “practical trade union repre-sentation on the board “.
This did not mean just a token representation, perhaps through a single appointment, but full participation in decision-making. He said that with such union representation many disputes, like the present one on lay-off pay which has made Triumph workers idle, would not happen. He was delighted with the move towards state participation.
“It is in line with our policy and with Labour Party policies for saving and creating jobs”, he said. State participation in the motor industry, and full-scale nationalization in due course, would certainly be in line with the declared policies of the TGWU’s automotive group and the AUEW, the two main car unions. A state takeover of car plants and leading components suppliers has also been a part of the “plan for engineering” made by the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions
As news of British Leyland’s financial troubles broke yesterday, more workers were being laid off at the corporation’s Triumph plants because of the strike by 1,000 assembly workers in Coventry. In all, more than 11,000 workers are now idle, including 8,000 in Coventry, 2,700 in Liverpool and 450 in Birmingham. The assembly track men are demanding payment for time lost when laid off because of a two-week stoppage by white- collar control room staff at the Coventry factory.