By R. W. Shakespeare
More than 33,000 car workers were on strike or laid off last night as the industry’s shop floor battles over the Government’s wage restrictions spread. British Leyland’s Austin- Morris plant at Longbridge, Birmingham, was brought to a standstill as 9,000 workers staged a strike in protest against a Pay Board ruling that part of a £4-a-week pay rise agreed with the management must be deferred. Another 10,000 workers had to be sent home and production stopped.
Another 2,000 workers at Jaguar plants in Coventry are laid off because of a strike in a components plant and production of its saloon and sports cars is stopped. British Leyland has run into trouble over Phase Two after an attempt by the management to iron out anomalies in its own pay structure. That results from 10,000 assembly line workers at Longbridge concluding a new pay deal, giving them big increases, only a few hours before the Government’s pay freeze was announced.
In later negotiations the corporation offered the remaining 9,000 ” indirect ” workers an increase of £5 a week back- dated to May. In putting its proposals to the Pay Board British Leyland argued that the increase was within the £1 plus 4 per cent formula if the calculation was based on the pay roll of the entire Longbridge labour force. The Pay Board has, however, ruled that the 9,000 can have an immediate pay rise of only £2.42 backdated to May, and that the balance of the increase must be postponed until November.
Yesterday British Leyland management representatives met union leaders to discuss the Pay Board’s ruling. As they did so, 6,000 of the indirect workers on the day shift walked out and shortly afterwards 6,000 assembly line workers had to be sent home. The strikers, many of whom attended a mass meeting outside the plant, were insisting that the management should pay the full negotiated increase in spite of the Pay Board’s ruling.
Among the strikers at Longbridge are the electricians, who find themselves faced with an almost parallel situation to that which has caused the crippling seven-week dispute at Chrysler’ where electricians are on strike at Coventry plants because the Pay Board has ruled that they cannot have the full increase of £250 a year they have demanded.