By R. W. Shakesneare
More than 20,000 British Leyland car workers were idle yesterday with much of the Austin Morris division car production at a standstill because of strikes and lay-offs both within the company and at one of the industry’s key components suppliers, where another 2,700 workers were affected. It seems unlikely that any of the British Leyland car production now affected can be resumed before Tuesday of next week and by then, component shortages may well be hitting all assembly lines, including some of those in the other main car companies, Ford, Vauxhall and Chrysler.
The main problems arise from a strike by 700 clerical workers at five engineering factories in Coventry belonging to the Dunlop organization. They want a £10 a week increase, and their week-old stoppage has caused the lay-off of 2,000 other Dunlop workers, closing the factories which make wheels and suspension units The immediate effect has been to halt Mini and Allegro production at Leyland’s Longbridge plant in Birmingham, where 5,500 workers are laid off together with another 900 at the Castle Bromwich body plant.
At Cowley, Oxford, the components shortage has also stopped Maxi car output with 900 workers laid off. All car production at Cowley was halted yesterday and 11,000 workers were idle. Leyland has introduced a four-day working week on the Marina production lines and this accounted for 4600 of the workers stopped yesterday. They are not due to return until Tuesday morning. A proposal to lay off another 150 “indirect” workers, men who service the assembly lines, again led to a walk-out by all 2,700 men in this grade.
The action by the indirect workers meant that another 3,000 Cowley workers have had to be sent home and production of the plant’s other models, the Maxi and the recently launched 18/22 range, is also halted. With the Dunlop strijke continuing. Leyland could be facing a shutdown of between 70 and 80 per cent of its car production duing next week.