New rise will give Triumph toolroom workers £47 a week
By GEOFFREY WHITELEY, Northern Labour Correspondent
Another agreement giving big pay increases to Midland car workers is expected to be concluded next week. Union negotiators, representing more than 1,000 toolroom workers in the Coventry factories of Triumph Motors are ready to accept a deal that would lift weekly wages by £5 to £47.
The negotiations are among a series of plant-level talks in Coventry car and engineering factories to reach new agreements for toolroom workers. Until last autumn, their pay was governed by a 30-year-old district agreement which laid down a monthly average. The agreement was discontinued by Coventry engineering employers, who considered the arrangement inflationary and outdated. Companies in the Coventry area are negotiating separately with unions.
The proposed Triumph Motors agreement is by no means the best achieved by the unions. Toolmakers at the BSA plant at Meriden, near Coventry, have negotiated a new wage of £52 for a 40-hour week. But it means at least that the Triumph workers will have improved their pay by about 17 per cent since the ending of the old district wages agreement. When a strike over the old agreement was narrowly averted , the employers agreed to increase the wages of toolroom workers from just over £40 to a “settlement figure” of £42, which became the base for bargaining.
New talks are to be held tomorrow about a dispute which has led to a strike of 3,000 production workers at the British Leyland Truck factory at Bathgate, West Lothian. Union officials, plant management, and shop stewards will discuss the strikers claim for an £8-a-week increase as the stoppage reaches the end of its seventh week.
So far, the strikers have been offered only £2 extra. If tomorrow’s talks fail , shop stewards will try to spread the dispute to other plants in the group. The stewards have also increased picketing outside the factory. A company spokesman at Bathgate said if there was a return to work shortly, the plant would be able to resume full-time working at least until July ; Short time was operating before the strike because of lack of orders.
There were some signs of a gradual return to normal working in the car industry. Fewer were idle at the Rover plant at Solihull–just under 3,000 compared with more than 4,000 on some days last week. Several vehicle factories have been told that they can increase power use slightly. Some of those limited to 50 per cent of normal power can now use 60 per cent. This should lead to slight improvements in working arrangements next week.
Even so, more than 40,000 BLMC workers were idle yesterday, more than half in the popular car factories in Birmingham, Cowley and Abingdon. The company’s main assembly factory at Longbridge, which last week used just under half of its normal weekly power consumption, produced 6,500 cars, 53 per cent of normal output.