By Our Midland Industrial Correspondent
British Leyland shop stewards failed in their attempts to shut group factories throughout the country yesterday. Only two midland plants took part in a planned mass protest against the sale of Thornycroft, the BLMC transmissions subsidiary to the American owned Eaton Corporation.
Truck and tractor production at the Bathgate, West Lothian plant was also halted and 3,000 men stayed out. The unofficial British Leyland combined shop stewards committee issued the strike call in support of 1,400 Thornycroft workers who are staging a sit-in at the Basingstoke works. They claim the new owners will make large-scale redundancies. But only 8,000 of a total of 150,000 British Leyland workers in Britain answered the call. Two thousand men at Austin-Morris transmissions, Washwood Heath, Birmingham, and 3,000 at Austin- Morris, Cowley, failed to report for work.
The response at Washwood Heath reputed one of the most militant work forces in the group, was nearly 100 per cent, and all production was stopped. But at the Cowley car assembly plant less than half the labour force failed to report. They were enough, however, to prevent the assembly lines operating and 3,000 employees had to be sent home. Union members at Cowley have demanded an investigation by full time union officials of shop stewards’ conduct at mass meetings last week to vote on the strike call.
They insist that although the count was clearly against a stoppage, stewards declared that their recommendation had been carried. Since then there have been serious disturbances in the plant, including fights between the two factions. Marina and Maxi production has been stopped by walk-outs and unofficial meetings. But the Bathgate men, against the advice of shop stewards, have decided not to observe another one-day strike proposed for next Monday in protest over the Industrial Relations Act.
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