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Strike Chaos Looms Again At Leyland

5 April 1979

Strike Chaos Looms Again At Leyland

British Leyland last night faced the grim prospect of an indefinite strike by from tomorrow by thousands of skilled workers seeking separate pay talks and a basic wage of £90 a week. Widespread shutdowns and lay-offs could result.

The state owned car giant was also hit by a shop floor row at its plant in Solihull, Birmingham. The dispute – over a door to a workers rest room – halted assembly of the Rover car saloon range, and meant that 3000 workers had to be sent home.

The double dose of trouble came at the start of the general election campaign, with industrial relations, bound to be a key issue, and within 24 hours of Leyland’s announcement of a possible link up with Honda. Last nights comment from the Japanese firm was; 'We have an excellent relationship with the unions and encounter no problems whatsoever.'

But a spokesman added; 'I think the company will seek reassurances from the British unions before entering into any deal with Leyland.'

There were no signs of any reassurances yesterday when senior Leyland shop stewards gave a thumbs-down to the link-up, saying it would threaten the British car industry. The threat of an indefinite strike by BL Cars skilled workers came after a joint meeting of leaders of 8000 craftsmen and toolroom workers in a Birmingham public house.

They overwhelmingly backed a call for an indefinite stoppage, and were confident that more than three quarters of their number would walk out.

By last night skilled workers at 11 Rover factories in the Midlands and Leyland plants in Cardiff, Liverpool, Dunstable, Cowley, Swindon and Birmingham had voted to down tools from tomorrow.

But their colleagues at the big Longbridge plant and the Drews Lane transmission factory in Birmingham said they would not join the stoppage. The craftsmen and toolmen are joined under the banner of the newly formed British Leyland United Craft Organisation, led by Cowley convener Mr Roy Fraser.

Two years ago he spearheaded the crippling four week tool-room strike which brought Leyland to the brink of financial collapse.  The organisation had given the company until yesterday to change heart and recognise them, and to set a date for separate pay talks with them.

They want a basic rate of £90 a week for skilled men – the present average is about £76. A Leyland spokesman said the company hoped tomorrows strike call would be rejected. He asked workers to await the results of current negotiations on pay 'which will go a long way to meeting their demands.'

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Sun, 08 Apr 1979
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