All vehicle production was stopped at the Austin-Morris car plant at Longbridge, Birmingham, yesterday because of a strike by maintenance engineers. The 200 maintenance engineers are protesting about the management’s interpretation of a recent pay deal which, they claim, has led to them losing £100 each in back pay. Because of their walk-out 2,550 other workers had to be sent home and output of Minis, 1100/1300 and 1800 cars was halted. A management spokesman said it was hoped that work would be resumed after the weekend.
However, another pay dispute involving 2,000 workers in the engine assembly plant at Longbridge could bring further trouble. Negotiations ended in deadlock at the final stage of the engineering industry’s disputes procedure in York yesterday. The engine workers have claimed higher piece-work rates. Pursuing its policy of phasing out piece-work. British Leyland has said that it will only discuss increases in the context of a new system of fixed hourly rates. The unions have rejected this. Any industrial action to press the claim, now that negotiations have broken down, will hit output of engines for the Mini’s, 1100 and 1300 cars made at both Longbridge and Cowley, Oxford.
Meanwhile production of the Rover 2000 and 3500 cars has been at a standstill for three days at the Solihull factory, with 200 workers laid off because of a strike at the Birmingham components firm, Wilmot Breeden. The situation at Rover worsened yesterday when a further 1700 workers walked out. They were protesting because the company is giving no lay-off pay to about 100 non-assembly workers while assembly line employees are getting lay-of pay under a plant agreement. The effect of this walkout was to stop all other vehicle production, and by last night nearly 6000 workers from the Solihull plant were idle.