BY OUR LABOUR STAFF
British Leyland said talks were taking place with unions about possible cuts at Longbridge, Birmingham, and the Rover – Triumph plant on Merseyside. Only about 2,000 of the 18,000 workers at Longbridge are likely to be affected at this stage. Some 1,500 at the Rover-Triumph factories at Speke could be on a four-day week because of unsold stocks of the Dolomite and 1500 models. Although these are the first short-time measures in the popular car plants of British Leyland, they will not surprise workers. A month ago the management gave warning that, if sales deteriorated there would have to be short time as an alternative to redundancy.
The company was also forced to close its Jaguar plant in Coventry as another pay dispute was added to its troubles. Six thousand workers have been laid off at the factory, already on a four-day week and preparing to make 950 workers redundant because of the deterioration in the American market. The disruption is caused by a strike of 600 toolroom workers at the body plant at Castle Bromwich, Birmingham. This has resulted in the Jaguar plant running out of body supplies.
The strikers, who are protesting about a pay offer are not due to meet again until tomorrow. Even if they accept the advice of the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers to resume work to allow further talks, supplies are unlikely to be available before the weekend. The dispute also threatens production at Longbridge where output of the Mini range could stop wlthin days. If this happens further extensive layoffs will be necessary. The strikers have rejected an offer which would give them an extra £5.25 a week on existing rates of £54.05. They are believed to be demanding increases of nearly £18 to restore differentials over production workers who recently received increases.
British Leyland has still to settle the dispute involving 250 engine tuners which almost stopped production at Cowley. The tuners have gone back to allow investigation of their claim; to be regraded as skilled workers.