Strike halts output of Montego
By Clifford Webb Motoring Correspondent
Production of Austin Rover’s new Montego saloon at Cowley was halted last night by the latest in a series of unofficial strikes.
There is growing concern within the company that its commercial success may be fostering increased militancy on the shop floor. The Montego walkout came only hours after the ending of a week-long strike at Longbridge which cost output of 6,000 Metros worth £25m at showroom prices and threatened the impending launch of a new small Rover.
The new flare-up began when 40 men employed on the Montego final trim and assembly line ignored the advice of the plant committee and stopped work in protest at reduced bonus earnings. A further 300 men were laid off. Despite improvement in productivity, bonuses have fallen short of the £30-a-week ceiling. They are now around £15 to £16, the workers say. An Austin Rover spokesman said: “The remedy is in the men’s own hands. Their unconstitutional action is typical of the sort of thing that has been happening recently and depressing the level of bonus payments, which are based on the efficiency of the plant as a whole.”
Managers are worried that news of the company’s recovery from losses of £101m in 1982 to a trading profit of £2m last year and the launch of a vital new model may have provided militants with both the ammunition and the timing for a fresh wave of “bushfire” strikes as a prelude to a serious confrontation in the autumn. A two-year pay deal involving increases of 5.6 per cent a year expires in November. It follows six years in which the highest annual increase was 6.8 per cent and the lowest 3.8 per cent.
Shop stewards insist that the time is overdue for Austin- Rover to end this austerity and reward employees for productivity. Management’s answer is that the reward is already being given in the shape of revised bonuses of up to £30 a week.