Union leaders seek urgent meeting with BL chairman
By Paul Routledge
Leaders of the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers are expected today to make official the BL strikes over the dismissal of Mr Derek Robinson, the Longbridge car plant shop stewards’ convener. This is the likely outcome of a meeting yesterday between Mr Terry Duffy, president of the AUEW and Mr (Moss) Mostyn Evans. general secretary of the Transport and General Workers’ Union, the dominant union at the motor firm.
Mr Duffy said after the talks at TUC headquarters in London that the conversation “has strengthened my belief that it will be made official “.
Both union leaders have also asked for a meeting with Sir Michael Edwardes, chairman of BL, ” as quickly as possible ” to seek reinstatement of Mr Robinson and withdrawal of disciplinary action against three other shop stewards who signed a pamphlet critical of the company’s recovery plan. Such a meeting was offered last night, but Mr Duffy said it would not be convenient for him to attend and it is now expected this afternoon.
The AUEW is in some considerable organizational difficulties, as three of its seven executive council members are holding examinations in Eastbourne to draw up a new parliamentary panel for the union. They have been recalled to AUEW headquarters in Peckham this morning for what will be the most critical union meetinq so far during the Robinson affair. The TGWU is believed to have taken a decision already that the strikes should be made official, and has only been staying its hand out of courtesy to the engineering workers’ executive. Mr Evans, who would not disclose the details of his talks with Mr Duffy, was strongly critical of Leyland management. It was they, he said, who had interrupted production. “If Mr Robinson had not been sacked, I am confident that BL workers would be working now” .
The TGWU general secretary added that he had read the pamphlet and in his view it advocated what Mr Edwardes wanted, expansion of the British motor industry” but in a different direction “.
Our Midlands Industrial Correspondent writes:
An attempt will be made tomorrow to commit the Labour Party to the campaign for the reinstatement of Mr Robinson. An emergency resolution calling for countrywide support by the party will be proposed at the meeting of the national executive by Mr Leslie Huckfield, Labour MP for Nuneaton. Yesterday he marched with Mr Robinson at the head of a demonstration by about 3,000 trade unionists around the streets of Birmingham.
Mr Robinson’s supporters had forecast that the response to the call for a “day of action and demonstration” would bring such huge contingents into the city from all over the country that Birmingham would be brought to a standstill. In the event a disappointing 2700 assembled on the site of the old Snow Hill railway station and this had grown to about 3,000 by the time the march reached the town hall. The meeting unanimously passed a resolution calling on all sections of the Labour and trade union machine to organize maximum support for the fight to reinstate Mr Robinson and to declare the strike official.
More BL workers ignored the pickets and returned to work yesterday. At Longbridge, Mr Robinson’s own plant. some 3,000 out of 14000 manual workers went in, and some engine and gearbox production was carried out.