By R. W. Shakespeare
Assemblv workers at British Leyland’s Triumph car plant in Coventry, whose strike over lay-off pay stopped all production and made 11,000 workers idle, are to go back to work today. But thousands more Midlands car workers were told that they were being laid off for ” ex-tended holidays ” over the Christmas and new year period.
This is because of production cuts made necessary by the depressed state of the car market. The 1,000 Triumph assembly workers, who have been on strike for three weeks, voted at a mass meeting to accept a recommendation of their shop stewards and approve settlement terms reached in negotiations with the management at the weekend. The men have been demanding layoff pay for time lost during a two-week strike by control room staff at the Coventry car plant.
The two consecutive disputes have together cost British Leyland about £30m worth of lost production. The settlement is the result of a compromise. Fresh negotiations have taken place between management and unions on the basic issue of layoff pay. The present agreements rule out such payments when men are made idle by disputes of any kind within their own plant. For the next six weeks, while these negotiations are being held, the Triumph workers have been guaranteed payment at 80 per cent of average earnings ,if they are laid off because of any ” constitutional strike ” when normal negotiating procedures have been exhausted.
If there is no long term settlement of the layoff pay question at the end of this six-week period the guarantee may be extended while negotiations continue. One immediate effect of the end of the assembly workers’ strike is that some 5,000 unsold vehicles which have been stockpiled in the Triumph plants because of picketing can now be released to dealers. This could help British Leyland’s cash-flow problems.