By Clifford Webb Midland Industrial Correspondent
Forty senior shop stewards who are said to represent 80,000 BL car workers met in Birmingham yesterday and voted unanimously to lodge a 20 per cent pay claim with the state-owned motor group. The current pay deal, which expires on November 1, was imposed by Sir Michael Edwardes, chairman of BL, and was restricted to 5 per cent for most workers and 10 per cent for craftsmen.
Mr Jack Adams, the new chairman of the. unofficial BL combined shop stewards committee, said the claim was based purely on the need for workers to counter the effects of inflation on their pockets. It had not been influenced by fears that it might lead to further job losses in addition to the 25,000 redundancies already on the way in the group’s 34 car plants.
He said it would mean an. increase of £17.21 a week, based on the average BL wage of £86.03. But the 20 per cent claim was nearer 12 per cent in real terms. For the past two years BL workers had. been forced to take severe wage cuts to help the company through its troubles. They had made real sacrifices and the time had come for management to recognize this. BL workers, who were once the third highest paid in the country, were now down to about twentieth; Mr Adams said.
He firmly believed that any redundancy plans being considered would go ahead, regardless of the way their pay claim was made up. Questioned about the small turnout at the combine’s annual meeting,only about half attended, he said many delegates were on short-time and had not felt able to come.
Mr Adams was yesterday elected to succeed Mr Derek Robinson as the combine’s chairman. He has already succeeded him as union convenor at Longbridge. Mr Robinson; who was the single most powerful shop floor figure at BL, was dismissed nine months ago after leading a campaign of disruption against Sir Michael’s recovery plans for the group. At that time Mr Adams, who also supported the campaign, was warned that any further breach of. discipline’ would lead to his dismissal: Both men are active members of the Communist party.
But, unlike the tough-talking Mr Robinson, Mr Adams shuns the glare of publicity. He is nevertheless a formidable adversary with the ability to turn a hostile meeting by reasoned argument.
Since Mr’ Robinson’s dismissal the combine has maintained a low profile. Its standing took a battering when a jeering meeting of Longbridge workers rejected strike action to force the company to reinstate Mr Robinson. It now appears ready to take the field again under a new leader.