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Leyland stalls on brink

9 February 1979

By Peter Hitchens and Declan Cunningham

LEYLAND workers were split down the middle last night as bosses struggled to steer the car giant away from an all out strike.

The balance was: 28,500 workers in eight plants FOR a strike. 27,650 workers in 12 plants AGAINST a strike. Another 30,000 men in 14 plants have still to vote . The strike call went out after management's refusal to meet parity payments because production had failed to reach agreed targets. At the Cowley assembly works and the Llanelli radliator factory the position was still not clear last night. The Cowlev men plan a secret ballot. At Llanelli the work force at first favoured a strike and then turned against it.

The 19,000 men at the Longbridge factory in Birmingham have already jumped the gun and walked out. The strike will go ahead only if a majority of Leyland plants votes in favour. The Cowley assembly men were yesterday urged by the stewards to strike immediately. But shop steward Bobby Fryer was jostled from the platform when he refused to hand over the microphone to a group of moderates who wanted to speak against the recommendation.

Other shop stewards moved in to push him back onto the platform, still denying others the right to speak. When the show of hands was called, the moderates believed they had won. The shop stewards, however, ruled it was "indecisive," and now the decision will go to a secret ballot. Engineering union convenor Doug Hobbs said later: "It was impossible to tell how the vote went. It could have been either way."

Talks aimed at bringing peace to Leyland ended in deadlock after five hours last night. They were between Leyland labour boss Pat Lowry and a union team headed by engineering union president Terry Duffy. The company refused to give an inch. Mr Lowrv said: "We cannot see the unions point that we should pay them the back money due since November regardless of performance."

On the union side. Grenville Hawley commented : "Hope springs eternal."

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