Archive : Race row fears for new BL car launch

By Declan Cunningham

A row over the sacking of a black worker yesterday for hitting a foreman is threatening the launch of British Leyland’s “mini” Rover.  Mass lay-offs are expected today at Birmingham’s Longbridge plant when 200 forklift drivers come out on strike demanding the re-instatement of 55 year old Jamaican Zedekiah Mills.

And last night Transport Union convenor Mr Jack Adams said: “He was badly provoked and we will get him re-instated.”

At his home in Kings Heath, Birmingham, Mr Mills said: “It all started because a car body was blocking the path of my fork lift truck. When I asked them to move it the foreman called me a black bastard. I’ve worked for BL for 13 years and have put up with remarks like that-but there comes a time when you can’t take anymore. I just pushed him away with the palm of my hand. I didn’t punch him as the management suggests.”

The management has sent a letter to the forklift drivers listing a number of previous incidents involving Mr Mills. It claims he was given a final written warning for refusing to carry out a reasonable management instruction and alleges that he previously used threatening behaviour towards a foreman. A BL spokesman said: “The company position has always been quite clear- violence by one employee against another results in dismissal.”

The drivers are not scheduled to meet again until Thursday and their action could seriously affect production of the “mini” Rover due to be launched on June 19th to replace the Triumph Acclaim.

Keith Adams

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