Archive : Second BL union backs away from strike

Second BL union backs away from strike
By Clifford Webb and Donald Macintyre

The Transport and General Workers’ Union yesterday followed the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers and backed away from a confrontation with British Leyland which could have led to the dismissal of thousands of strikers and the end of the state-owned motor group in its present form.

But the delicate relations which have always existed between the two rival unions in the motor industry have become strained by the engineering union’s failure to follow the TGWU lead and make the strike official. The split could endanger current wage negotiations at BL. The TGWU already has been angered by management proposals to restore the full wage differential between production workers and craftsmen represented mostly by the AUEW. Negotiations should have resumed yesterday but were postponed because of the present dispute. Management attempts to set another date so far have been rejected by the union side on the BL joint negotiating council.

As most strikers returned to work Mr Brian Mathers, secretary of the TGWU’s midland region told a press conference:  “We are very angry. We have been stabbed in the back and presented with a fait accompli.”

He announced that a meeting of his regional finance and general purposes committee had decided reluctantly to suspend its decision of two days ago to make the strike official and had recommended its members to return to work. When told that Sir Michael Edwardes, BL chairman, had given a warning to the AUEW executive at their eleventh hour meeting on Tuesday that he would dismiss all the strikers if the dispute was made official, Mr Mathers said Sir Michael was trying to introduce
” management by confrontation “.

Mr Terence Duffy, the AUEW president disclosed Sir Michael’s dismissal threat yesterday. Sir Michael had also given a warning that BL might seek no further backing from the Government and  ” that would be the end for British Leyland “.

Mr Duffy said his union had changed course because of the “stark reality” of closure. Yesterday nearly 90 per cent of the workforce went back at Longbridge, where at one stage 14,000 of the 18,000 manual workers were on strike in support of their dismissed convenor, Mr Derek Robinson. At the Castle Bromwich body plant, which supplies Jaguar and Rover, 4,000 of the 5,700 strong labour force returned. Support for Mr Robinson was also. crumbling at Triumph, Canley, the last stronghold of the strikers.

Keith Adams

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