FROM OUR OWN CORRESPONDENT
BIRMINGHAM, Nov. 5
The unofficial sit-down strike at the Rover company’s Edgbaston factory, where a shop steward was not allowed time off to take his car to be serviced, continued to-day. Mr Terence O’Rourke, the shop steward concerned, drove to the factory this morning in the car-a Vauxhall Cresta with radio and heater.
The 24 sheet metal workers involved entered the factory but spent most of the day playing cards. A statement by the management said that negotiations were held during the day with the men, who were told that they would have to resume work before an investigation could take place into the cause of the dispute. It was hoped that a meeting with union officials could be arranged for tomorrow morning. The union to which the men belong, the Birmingham and Midland Sheet Metal Workers’ Society, issued a statement indicating that more lies behind the strike than is immediately apparent
Mr A. E. Cooper, the general secretary. said that the union were “extremely incensed” at the suggestion that the members were in dispute simply because a man had not received a pass-out. This was the culminating point of many incidents over a long period, he said. There had been differences with the factory management over restrictions on output. When these were lifted by the higher management of the company, output rose by 20 per cent.
Mr Cooper said that on his instructions and with the consent of the higher management a senior shop steward from another Rover factory was sent to the Edgbaston works to persuade the men to resume work and to settle their grievances.
” The manager of this factory ran our man off the grounds without hearing his point of view. Our members will not go back to work if our senior shop steward is not allowed to negotiate.”
He said. Mr O’Rourke, added Mr Cooper, arranged with a garage to have his car serviced, but the man who was to take it there fell sick and since Mr O’Rourke would have lost his turn if the car had not been delivered at the time arranged he asked for a pass out.
Lower Motor Profits
The effect on British Motor Corporation profits of the introduction of new models and of recurrent labour troubles has been even more marked than had been suspected Although output fell only from 504,713 in 1957-58 to 486,048 in the year to July 31 last, group earnings dropped from £24,500,000 to £20,315,000. Nevertheless, the directors are improving on their dividend forecast by declaring a final payment on the increased capital not of 10 per cent but of 12-5 per cent, making 18-25 per cent for the year compared with the equivalent of 9-5 per cent. for the previous year after taking account of the 30 per cent capitalisation issue. This increased distribution out of lower profits suggests that the directors too believe that 1959-60 will be B.M.C.’s year.
Demand for the company’s cars is now probably greater than ever before and the management has already stated that production should increase during the current year by about 40-45 per cent. This could be an understatement. At all events helped by the ” unprecedented ” number of new models now in production output for the first 13 weeks of the financial year has already risen by 24 per cent, from 118,000 to 147,000 vehicles.