The Standard Motor Company, of Coventry, announced tonight that they are to dismiss the entire body shop force working on their new Triumph Herald models rather than pay the wages the men are demanding. Between 100 and 120 men are involved and the firm say they will engage new employees, including any of the dismissed men “who are prepared to work for reasonable terms.”
Trade unions expect that all men employed on the Herald will strike in sympathy and they regard a walk out by all 10,000 of Standard’s car and tractor workers as likely. For the past eight weeks the men have been disputing piecework rates offered and last week they banned overtime. Matters came to a head when the firm attempted to increase production to meet the huge demand for the new models.
The firm, in a statement tonight, said that to save valuable time they offered guaranteed wage rates to operate temporarily until agreement was reached on piecework prices. These rates were £19 11s. 8d. for assembly fitters and painters and £20 11s. 11d. for finishers and trimmers for a 42-5 hour week. The statement continued: “The offer was intended to dispel any doubt which body shop personnel might entertain about the level of future earnings that would result from the successful conclusion of negotiations and was made in the full knowledge that earnings would be considerably higher when piecework prices had been agreed. However, this practical demonstration of good faith by the management was flatly rejected. ”
The rejection made it clear that the body shop personnel were seeking high wages in return for below average efforts. It was also clear that they intended to press their demand regardless of the consequences to the company and to their fellow employees.
Production time amounting to several thousand Heralds had been lost, as well as much goodwill and future trade of the company, and the wellbeing of its employees was threatened. The directors, said the statement, would not be “forced into paying piecework prices and therefore wages which would adversely affect the selling price of the company’s products.”
A spokesman for the three trade unions with membership involved said: “The firm’s action is a complete breach of the agreements with the unions and is irresponsible. One wonders what they hope to achieve by such irresponsibility other than a complete cessation of production. The firm tried to impose piecework rates. Their offer was the subject of conditions which would have had the effect of establishing the company’s own piecework prices.”
The unions involved are the Transport and General Workers’ Union, the Amalgamated Engineering Union, and the National Union of Vehicle Builders. At a Press conference in Birmingham, a Standard Company spokesman said: “The patience of the company has been exhausted. We have leaned over backwards to reach an agreement with these men. The offer of a day rate would have meant earnings with overtime of over £25 a week. The men at first asked for a piecework rate which would have meant earnings of something like £40 to £50 a week and although they have reduced their demands there is still a big gap between us.”
The Triumph Herald, which has been on general sale to the public for only a month, reverts to the pre-war principle of building a body on an established chassis instead of the integral constructions now employed by nearly all car firms. The introduction of the model, said the spokesman, meant that the firm were making their own bodies for the first time since the war. They had spent £800,000 on the body shop, and it was designed to produce 25 bodies an hour. At present it was producing only two and a half an hour. Inquiries for Heralds totalled 17,000.