From Our Labour Correspondent
The strike at the Morris Motors plant at Cowley, Oxford, was called off last night after six more hours of discussions by representatives of the employers and the unions with Mr St. John Wilson, the Chief Industrial Commissioner. An official statement after the meetings said that the unions had undertaken to advise their members to resume normal working forthwith.
Mr Frank Horsman, the senior shop steward of the Transport and General Workers’ Union, whose dismissal was the cause of the dispute, will be transferred to the Pressed Steel Company-who supply car bodies to the British Motor Corporation-at least for the time being.
Immediately after the agreement was reached, Mr Frank Cousins, the general secretary of the T.G.W.U., telephoned to the Midland officials of his unions to arrange a return to work as soon as possible. Shop stewards of the 11 unions whose members are on strike will recommend the 3,500 strikers to return at a mass meeting outside the factory at 7.30 am. today. Their decision was arrived at in Oxford last night after much criticism of the agreement reached in London.
“I expect the men will clock in immediately if the recommendation is accepted,” a Transport and General Workers’ Union official said. He added that Mr Horsman, who was at the Oxford meeting, accepted his union’s advice over the settlement. Mr Horsman said the dispute had established the principle that a man should not lose his job by doing his duty as a trade unionist. There had never been criticism of him as a worker. The talks at the Ministry, which began on Monday afternoon, concentrated on the central issue which was preventing a return to work while the differences between the two sides were settled.
This was that the unions would not go through the procedure for settling disputes unless Mr Horsman was first reinstated, and the firm refused to reinstate him before going through the procedure. It appears that Mr. St. John Wilson suggested two possible lines of compromise. Either Mr Horsman might be transferred to another position or he might be suspended on pay while the negotiations took place.
From 10 a.m. until after 2.30 p.m., without a break, these and related possibilities were discussed with Mr Wilson without the two sides coming together. Then, after a break for three-quarters of an hour, they finally met and agreed on the settlement. Mr Horsman will go to the Pressed Steel Company on terms and conditions similar to those he enjoyed at Morris Motors. It will be open to the unions either to take the question of his dismissal through the industry’s procedure for the avoidance of disputes or to accept some other form of adjudication.
This will be without prejudice to his continued employment at the Pressed Steel Company. Morris Motors will abide by the undertakings they have already given to comply with the results of the reference to the procedure. If the outcome of the procedure is failure to agree, then the parties would be free, as is usual in such circumstances, to take such further action as they considered necessary.
This means the unions would be free to strike again. But at that stage also they would have the alternative of arbitration.
“It is understood, however,” says the last sentence of the official statement, ” that in this event the parties may agree to refer the dispute to a mutually accepted form of adjudication, in which case both sides would accept the results of such reference.” Mr. Frank Foulkes, of the Electrical Trades Union, who is this year’s president of the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions, emphasized that whatever the results of arbitration or negotiation might be Mr. Horsman was guaranteed his job with the Pressed Steel Company. If the union won their case, then he would have the opportunity of going back to Morris Motors, if he cared to accept it, as a shop steward. Mr Foulkes said that both sides paid tribute to the efforts of Mr Wilson.