By Clifford Webb Midland Industrial Correspondent
More than 14,000 car workers were laid off at British Leyland’s Longbridge plant yesterday because of a series of labour disputes. Production of the new Austin Allegro, the Mini, 1100/ 1300 and 1800 was at a standstill. A company spokesman described the shutdown as “a tragedy”. It came at a time when there was a long waiting list for all BLMC cars “As usual, the only people to benefit will be the foreign car dealers”. he said.
The most serious stoppage involves the Allegro which was launched only a fortnight ago as British Leyland’s car for Europe. The first two years’ production has already been ordered by the trade. Efforts being made by management to increase output to meet this record demand have caused the latest trouble. About 650 press operators at the group’s Swindon body plant walked out in protest at higher production targets being set for Allegro body panels. Without these the main assembly line at Longbridge cannot work and 2,100 men were sent home. The strikers are due to meet today.
By that time, the stoppage will have cost British Leyland about 400 Allegros. Plans to commission a second Allegro assembly line have had to be postponed. This is due partly to the Swindon strike and partly to a ban on overtime by 2,000 maintenance men, toolroom workers and electricians who are demanding separate pay talks from other indirect workers at Longbridge. A one-day strike by 1,500 foremen and supervisors at Longbridge led to a further 12,000 assembly workers being laid off yesterday. They took the day off because they had to work on Wednesday when shop-floor employees received an extra day’s holiday.
At BLMC’s Rover assembly plant at Solihull, most of the 900 clerical staff were striking over an extra day’s holiday given to manual workers.