Archive : Women strikers in front line of a Longbridge battle

By R. W. Shakespeare Northern Industrial Correspondent

The 134 women machinists at British Leyland’s Longbridge, Birmingham, car plant, whose week old strike has made nearly 4,000 car workers idle, have decided to continue the stoppage for at least another week. The machinists’ strike has so far cost British Leyland lost car output worth more than £2m.

It has caused the lay off of more than 3,200 car assembly workers on the Mini and 1800 production line and another 540 from the car body plant at Castle Bromwich. The decision to continue the strike, and to meet again next Thursday, was taken at a mass meeting yesterday.

It appears to have the full backing of the Longbridge shop stewards organization. The reason for this is not hard to discern. The women are demanding a straightforward increase of around 15 per cent in their piece work rates. They have rejected a company offer that would give them a much bigger rise than this-probably round 30 per cent-provided that they agree to the elimination of the piece work system and the introduction of fixed hourly rates.

The women, therefore, find themselves in the front line of the battle that is only just beginning over British Leyland’s attempts to phase out piecework from the whole of the giant Longbridge complex, as it has done at its Austin-Morris car factories at Cowley. The shop stewards are opposed to the plan and support a ‘ no strings” increase in piecework rates

Keith Adams

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