Nearly 80,000 BL car workers, 97 per cent of the manual labour force, rejected strike action yesterday and reported for work as usual. At three plants they had to brave the catcalls and jeers of pickets led by Transport and General Workers’ Union shop stewards.
The massive turnout in spite of a weekend of intense activity by stewards opposed to BL’s decision to implement its controversial pay and working.conditions package is seen as a vote of confidence for Sir Michael Edwardes, chairman of BL. Most of the workers on strike are members of the transport union. They will be receiving a 5 per cent wage increase compared with 10 per cent for skilled workers. The extra 5 per cent is regarded by the management as an overdue attempt to restore wage differentials for craftsmen who have been leaving BL in large numbers.
All 23,000 engineering union members at BL obeyed their national executive’s instruction and reported for work. The militants were partially successful at the Rover (Solihull), Jaguar (Coventry) and Common Lane, Birmingham, plants. About half the 4,000 workers making Land-Rovers and Range Rovers stayed away.
At the two Jaguar plants fewer than half of the 4,500 workers were on strike and at Common Lane, where the Sherpa van is produced, 1,500 out of 1,800 workers accepted a strike recommendation Assembly lines at all three plants were halted, but BL said that there was plenty of work, including the completion of partially finished vehicles, for those who reported.