STRIKE WARNING OVER LEYLAND REDUNDANCY PLAN
By Keith Harper, Labour Editor
Shop stewards representing Transport and General Workers Union members at British Leyland yesterday threatened to strike if the firm proceeded with plans to make 25,000 people redundant. The decision, a unanimous one, was reached in Birmingham yesterday at a meeting of 70 stewards claiming to speak on behalf of 73 per cent of the company’s workforce. They passed a resoloution saying that they would “resort to any action necessary” to secure the livelihood of their members.
They will now ask the TGWU executive to support plants which resist closure and to back their demand to ensure no work is transferred from one factory to another. Their statement said : “It is our opinion that Leyland’s philosophy will mean the total demise of the only British based manufacturer. We will not allow this to happen. We believe that Leyland does have a future”.
Mr Grenville Hawley, the TGWU’s national automotive secretary, who attended the meeting, said afterwards that the union did not want to be involved in a strike “but at the end of the day there may be that kind of result.”
Mr Hawley that a strike could result if Leyland proved intransigent or not prepared to modify plans. The feeling was that Leyland should have an expansionist approach and not carry on “this continuous slimming down operation”, which he said only reduced the potential of the motor industry.
Asked about the unions emergency committee set up earlier this week to deal with Leyland’s proposals, he replied that it would be discussing planned alternatives but would be hard pressed to come up with any details required in the three weeks set by BL’s chairman, Sir Michael Edwardes.
One of the most likely proposals to be discussed by the committee at its first meeting in Coventry next week will be one from yesterdays meeting demanding that the government introduce immediate import controls on foreign cars to protect Leyland’s manufacturing base pending the introduction of new models. It is an idea not likely to appeal to the free market philosophy of the Government.
The shop stewards refusual to allow work to be transferred could bring them into conflict with the company over plans to close Triumph factories at Coventry where production of the TR7 is due to be switched to the Rover plant at Solihull with the loss of 7,000 jobs.
Mr Eddie McGarry, the Triumph convener, yesterday accused the company of doing a “double dive”. At the company’s instigation he had visited Japan as part of the original plan to build the new Leyland-Honda car at Canley, West Midlands. Now the factory was to be closed, a decision which had come as “a complete surprise”.
More than 5,000 Austin-Morris workers involved on production of the Marina, Maxi and Princess range at Cowley have been laid off until next Wednesday because of a parts shortage caused by the national engineering dispute. At the neighbouring Pressed Steel Fisher car body factory 1,200 workers have been laid off for two days next week for the same reason.