By Simon Beavis
Further action is expected by Jaguar , the luxury car producer , after it yesterday laid off production workers in a dispute over a senior shop steward sacked for using a photocopier without permission.
Two thousand workers at the company’s Brown’s Lane plant in Coventry were sent home after 80 workers stayed away from work in protest at the sacking of Mr Tommy Wheeler. Although the walk-out was described as a 24-hour protest , sources suggested last night that there could be further action action today. A company spokesman acknowledged that the action could spread.
Mr Wheeler, aged 63, was sacked last week for what the company described as “gross misconduct – being found photocopying material, refusing to reveal what the material was, and allegedly abusing a manager when challenged. On Friday his appeal against dismissal was rejected, and 80 colleagues in the stores department yesterday struck in his support. It is believed that Mr Wheeler was photocopying a newsletter from the local Labour MP, Mr Dave Nellist, on the subject of stress at work; Mr Wheeler yesterday estimated that the paper used cost about £1.
While a company spokesman last night said that it was impossible to estimate the cost of yesterday’s lost production , a day and a night shift represent approximately £5 million in cars at showroom prices. The spokesman added that production was at a virtual standstill because the supply of stores had dried up.
The lay-offs come at a sensitive time as company managers and union leaders are negotiating a pay package. The company wants it spread over two years, while the unions want a one-year deal. Yesterday an improved two year deal was presented to union negotiators.