By R. W. Shakespeare
British Leyland’s latest labour problems worsened yesterday when production of the recently launched 18/22 car range at the big Cowley, Oxford, plant had to be stopped and 1,900 workers were laid off, bringing the total now idle to nearly 12,000. The company has given warning that there could be more lay-offs after a week unless disputes affecting component supplies are quickly resolved.
The stoppage of the 18/22 lines at Cowley follows the shut-down earlier this week of Triumph car assembly at Coventry and on Merseyside and heavy disruption of Jaguar production in the Midlands. And the trouble arises largely from a strike by 800 workers at a British Leyland-owned factory at Hemel Hempstead which produces axles and suspension units for different car ranges.
The strikers want an interim increase of £10 a week, although their wage agreement does not expire until the end of September. At a mass meeting this week they voted to meet again next Thursday. In addition to the 1,900 Cowley workers laid off yesterday, 2,500 are idle at Jaguar; 2,100 at Triumph, Coventry, and 2,600 at Triumph, Liverpool. Another 500 workers have had to be sent home from the body making plant in the Midlands and at Swindon.
Maxi car production at Cowley is also halted with 900 workers laid off, as a result of the continuing effect of another dispute at a components factory in South Wales, also owned by British Leyland.