With all the American-owned Chrysler Company’s car production in Britain at a standstill, yesterday British Leyland had to stop its Mini and Allegro assembly lines at Longbridge, Birmingham, and lay off 5,000 workers.
Last night another 1,000 men were laid off from the other big Austin Morris plant at Cowley, Oxford, and production of Marina cars was cut. There may be many more lay-offs at Cowley from today, and production could also be affected at British Leyland’s MG plant at Abingdon. British Leyland’s problems stem from a strike by 2,000 production workers at its central transmissions plant at Washwood Heath, Birmingham.
Production there is stopped and another 1,700 workers have been laid off. This plant supplies all the transmission units for both the Austin Morris assembly lines and for the MG factory. The strikers walked out after rejecting management proposals for a new pay deal which is not due to take effect until October 1.
The offer is worth £4 a week, made up of straight wage increases, improved overtime and shift premiums, and higher holiday pay. What is particularly worrying for British Leyland is that the strike has been staged while the current wage agreement is still in force and before the agreed negotiating procedure with the unions has been exhausted.
Until now British Leyland’s specially tailored negotiating machinery for each of its plants has appeared to work well and this is the first time that it has been breached.
At Bathgate, West Lothian, production is at a standstill for the fourth week running at British Leyland’s truck and tractor plant where 450 clerical workers are on strike over pay demands and 4,500 production workers are laid off.