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Car strikers set for angry clash

2 September 1979

By David Jack

SCORES of extra police will be standing by for tomorrow's showdown in the anti-strike rebellion at Leyland's biggest car plant. Battle lines were firmly drawn yesterday at the Longbridge plant in Birmingham,amid the fiercest wave of anti-union feeling in recent years. Nearly 1,000 moderates, angry at being denied a chance to vote on whether to strike, held a mass meeting on Friday and declared their determination to carry on working. But they will face heavily reinforced picket lines drawn up by equally determined shop stewards who declared yesterday :

"They will never cross our picket lines."

And the shop stewards warned that the anti-strike revolt would be; pointless because foremen had been instructed by their union not to supervise work by "blacklegs." That warning did nothing, yesterday to change the anti-strike plans of 40-year-old union rebel Mr Mike Savage, who has reluctantly ernerged as leader of the Longbridge moderates. He hopes that by tomorrow morning thousands more, "reasonably minded workers" will join him. Mr Savage said :

"The last thing I want is violence. But equally we are determined to work if there is trouble it will not be of our making."

Mr Savage's phone at his home in Great Barr, Birmingham, rang constantly with callers from all over the country backing him. Mr Savage, a finisher at the Longbridge factory for two years, is a member of the Transport and General Workers' Union. Overall, the outlook for Britain's engineering industry is grim.

DON PERRY writes: Despite the emergence of a strong "moderate " element at the Leyland car factories- the engineering unions decision to go on indefinately with two day strikes is the worst news for Britain's manufacturing industry since the three-day week of the miners' battle with Mr Heath five years ago. In the 1974 three-day week, a lot of overtime wasworked, and employers found a great deal of willingness on the shop floor to overcome problems. But this time there is an overtime ban. Extensive disruption has already been caused by one-day strikes.

And the Engineering Employers federation fear that two-day strikes will pile up a vast loss of output. Even the rebellion among car workers around the Midlands looks like being' undermined. By refusing to go on strike and turning up for work many men on the production lines will get their pay.

But since components from door-locks to bumpers, necessary for the assembly of the cars, are in many, cases not there, because hundreds of supplying factories have been thrown out of gear by strikes, output from the car firms is expected to fall and fall. For Leyland, the outlook is appalling. The risk is that some unions will sanction total five day-a-week strikes in limited areas where their members are particularly truculent and local leadership is militant.

British Leyland last night dismissed a report that the company planned to axe as many as 50,000 jobs and ask the Government for as much as £500 million to ensure its survival.

"The 50,000 figure is amazing , it's about half our British workforce," said a company spokesman.

"It would be draconian, knocking out some of the most vital parts of the operation."

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