By Clifford Webb Midland Industrial Correspondent
Triumph Motors’ proposals to abolish piecework in a new pay deal will be put to the test this ,week at a series of mass meetings of employees at the company’s Coventry plants. Shops stewards at the largest plant, the Canlev car assembly works, have already rejected the proposals by 220 votes to 1 and demonstrated convincingly that management has a fight on its hands.
The management is confident, however, that the shop stewards’ opposition does not reflect the views of the majority of the 9000 strong labour force. It is supported in this by events at another British Leyland branch, the huge Austin-Morris complex at Cowley. near Oxford. Shop stewards at Cowley were loud in their condemnation of a similar new pay deal designed to get rid of piecework. If management had accepted the shop stewards’ opposition as representative of shop floor feeling it would have dropped the proposals.
Instead, it went ahead and put the issue to the men direct. To the suprise of many, but not apparently of Mr Pat Lowry, British Leyland’s director of industrial relations, who master-minded the whole operation, the proposals were accepted by a large majority. That was over a year ago and involved only men working on the new Morris Marina. Since then more sections at Cowley have made the changeover.
The latest example of British Leyland employees acting in defiance of shop stewards occurred at Cowley only last week. Some 2600 indirect workers in the assembly plant voted 9 to 1 in favour of a pay deal which their shop stewards had urged them to throw out. Shop stewards at Triumph insist, however, that Mr Bill Davis, Triumph’s chairman will find a very different response if he tries to repeat Cowley tactics by separating shop stewards from their members in a direct appeal to the shop floor.
Mr Eddie McGarry, convener of the Transport and General Workers’ Union and joint chairman of the British Leyland Combined Shop Stewards Committee. said: “The unions at Triumph have always taken great pains to reflect the views of their members. As long ago as last August a mass meeting gave us full authority to reject measured dav work and that is what this latest proposal amounts to.”
His strongest weapon at the meetings this week will be his claim that some men will have to take a drop in wages of £4 a week if the proposals go through. He maintains that this is the first time any British Leyland works have been asked to take a wage cut when charging from piecework to measured day work.
The confrontation at Triumph is being closely studied by management and workers at Austin- Morris, Longbridge. the last and biggest remaining obstacle to be crossed in Mr Lowry’s planned switch from piecework to measured day work throughout British Leyland. The two sides there have been taking part in talks for several months past to try to find an acceptable formula.