By Peter Hitchens
Leyland lurched towards chaos last night as 3,000 craftsmen defied their management and union. Hopes thaf skilled men would refuse to back rebel leader Roy Fraser’s unofficial strike were dashed. Toolmakers in plant after plant failed to clock in for the day shift in a row which they have been told they cannot win. Hundreds more were expected to stay away from,the nightshifts. A seven-week stoppage by Mr Fraser s army two years ago nearly destroyed the battered motor giant. The surprising success of the new strike is almost certain to lead to factory closures and mass redundancies. Leyland chairman Michael Edwardes has warned that 15,000 jobs could be wiped out.
But Mr Fraser, demanding separate bargaining rights for craftsmen, insisted once again: “We have no alternative.’
Today his union, the engineers, will consider calls for his expulsion. The centres of the strike yesterday were two factories at Cowley, the ultra-modern Rover plant at Solihull – and the Pressed Steel works at Castle Bromwich Also involved were Birmingham components, a Rover engine works in Cardiff and the Swindon body plant. The strike means thatmachine breakdowns will not be repaired which could rapidly halt almost all Leyland car operations. Although Jaguar and Triumph are not involved, they get their car bodies from Castle Bromwich and other strike-hit press shops. Longhridge, too has rejected-.the strike call but their attitude could change. The company said that production would be kept going as long as possible. Meanwhile Leyland union leaders met Mr Edwardes in London to discuss the company’s planned Japanese link with Honda.
Imported cars had a record: 55 per-cent of the British market last month.