British Leyland’s costly labour troubles continued yesterday with 19,300 workers idle through strikes and lay-offs. Almost all car production at the huge Austin Morris complex at Cowley, Oxford, was again at a standstill with nearly 9,000 men either on strike or laid off.
At the corporation’s five bus and truck factories in Lancashire, another 8,500 workers were on strike, and in Coventry, 2,000 Jaguar workers were still laid off because of a shortage of components resulting in a stoppage by transport drivers. The overall production position for British Leyland was slightly improved, compared with the previous day, by a return to work at the Triumph car plant at Speke, on Merseyside, where earlier in the week 2,000 men were laid off because of a stoppage by 200 workers.
The trouble at Cowley centres on a strike by 3,500 men in the body pressing workshops who are claiming lay-off pay for periods during last month when they were made idle by disputes over work-study projects on the car assembly lines which led to a shutdown and cost £10m in lost output. Yesterday, another 800 men from the paintshops joined the strike which has now caused the lay-off of 4,500 assembly workers.
All production on the Marina and Maxi lines is stopped and the only cars still being made at Cowley are some of the GT models. Mr David Buckle. district secretary of the Transport and General Workers’ Union, at Oxford, claimed yesterday that British Leyland’s agreement on lay-off pay had “proved worthless when put to the test”
However, the management maintains that the agreement specifically rules out lay-off pay if workers are stopped because of disputes within the Cowley plants. At the bus and truck factories in Leyland and Chorley, the entire production labour force is on strike in protest over the lay-off of 139 workers after a stoppage by a group of engine assemblers. The dispute is centred on the collapse of plant-level negotiations over a new wage agreement in which the management wants to end the long-standing piecework system.
But because of the Government’s £1 plus 4 per cent wage ceiling the corporation is unable to offer what the plant men’s negotiators regard as an acceptable pay settlement.