By R. W. Shakespeare
All car production at British Leyland’s two Austin-Morris plants at Cowley, Oxford and Longbridge, Birmingham was at a standstill yesterday with some 17,000 workers either on strike or laid off. There will be no resumption of work at Cowley before the Easter holidays begin tonight, but at Longbridge all workers are being recalled today and will work full shifts before their Easter break begins tomorrow night.
The Cowley plant where the number of layoffs rose to 10,500 yesterday, has been losing output of some 1,200 cars each day this week as a result of a fresh dispute with 150 transport drivers. Their strike has come immediately after a two-week stoppage by 2,400 Marina assembly workers which made another 4000 men idle and cost some £10m worth of lost car output. The total production losses at Cowley over the past three weeks will by tonight, amount to around £15m.
The drivers whose job is to keep components and materials moving at Cowley are objecting to layoff arrangements. This follows the situation which developed during the Marina strike when some of them had to be sent home while others remained at work. Now their stoppage has halted all production of Marina, Maxi and 1300 cars. At a meeting yesterday the drivers decided not to meet again until Tuesday when the plant is due to reopen after the holidays.
At Longbridge all car production-including Minis, Allegros, 1800s and 2200s, had to be stopped yesterday and 6,500 workers sent home because of a shortage of carburettors. This results from a dispute at the British Leyland-owned SU Carburettor plant at Birmingham which stopped Mini production at Longbridge last week and this week. However, seven electricians who were holding out at the carburettor plant after other workers had called off their strike decided to resume work yesterday afternoon. This means that the Longbridge workers can be recalled.