By Raymond Perman Labour Staff
Workers at British Leyland’s Austin-Morris car assembly plant at Cowley, voting in a secret ballot for the first time, have rejected Mr Alan Thornett, a member of the Trotskyist Workers’ Revolutionary Party, as their senior shop steward.
Mr Thornett was accused by the management of stirring up industrial unrest in the plant and the withdrawal of his credentials as deputy senior shop steward and steward for the transport drivers caused an 18-day unofficial strike by 150 drivers, which made 12,500 men idle.
The secret ballot, held in the factory, was the result of an internal inquiry by .the Trans- port and General Workers’ Union. It cleared Mr Thornett of the management’s accusations, but criticized Mr Bob Fryer, senior shop steward. In the voting results, declared yesterday, Mr Thornett and Mr Fryer were beaten by Mr Reg Parsons, a former left-winger who describes himself as a moderate.
The voting was: Mr Parsons, 1,881 (about 60 per cent); Mr Fryer, 824 (26 per cent); Mr Thornett, 407 (13 per cent) and bottom of the poll. About 5,000 men were eligible to vote, but some could not do so because they could not produce their union cards. Before the poll, senior and deputy senior shop stewards were elected by vote of the stewards.
The shop-floor workers took no direct part. British Leyland told the union yesterday that it would accept Mr Thornett as steward of the transport drivers.