Archive : One strike ends; another begins

By Declan Cunningham

The strike by 18,000 car workers at British Ley1and’s Longbridge plant in Birmingham fizzled out yesterday. But within hours a separate dispute halted production of Rover cars a few miles away at Solihull. The Longbridge strike, which cost the company £15 million, ended after a vote by 10,000 men meeting near the plant. Even Communist convenor Derek Robinson, who led the mass walkout last week, had to bow to the inevitable isolation. For the Longbridge men stood alone within Leyland, lacking any support from 33 other factories. Conditions had changed, said Mr Robinson, as he urged his men to return.

He warned: ‘We can continue in isolation and it will be inevitable that we will slowly sink to destruction. We have had a magnificent strike and we don’t want it to end in utter defeat.’

Only 500 hard-core militants voted against the peace move. They shouted for Mr Robinson’s resignation and cried: ‘You’ve Sold us down the river, Robinson, you’ll never lead us out on strike again.’

The men, who walked out after the company failed to make parity payments, will be back on production lines this morning. But if their shop stewards had followed agreed procedures they need never have faced the embarrassing climbdown. Longbridge was the only plant to jump the gun. But Mr Robinson said after yesterdays meeting: ‘It is only a tenuous peace. By May every other plant will feel the same as us.’

At Solihull production was stopped when 43 inspectors walked out after talks on a manning dispute broke down. Their action meant 2,500 assembly workers had to be laid off. The strikers are due to meet again today.

Keith Adams

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