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Raymond Challinor

Strike Breaks 40 Years’ Peace
at Leyland ‘Hong Kong’ Plants

(22 May 1969)

From Socialist Worker, No. 123, 22 May 1969, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

THE FIRST STRIKE for more than 40 years is taking place at British Leyland motor factories in mid-Lancashire. All five works with 8,500 men are out.

Convenor Len Brindle said, ‘You could hear the swish of hands going up when we put the resolution.’ The men’s demand is for parity of earnings with the rest of the group.

They call for £24 a week for a skilled man – £10 less than many are getting in Midlands’ car factories.

One striker pointed out ‘This is the Hong Kong of the British Leyland group. Judas sold himself for 30 pieces of silver. He would only get 10 here.’

Another brought out a newspaper cutting showing that lavatory attendants at Pressed Steel were receiving £5 a week more than skilled men at Leylands.

The management have enjoyed a prolonged period of ‘good labour relations’. For many years the trade unions, with right-wing leadership, have been pliable and docile. As a result there has been hard work and low pay.


But the management has shown it has not appreciated this co-operative attitude. In the present negotiations it has shown nothing except contempt for the joint shop stewards’ committee.

‘All we want,’ says Len Brindle, ‘is parity of earnings – dignity for those on piecework.’

British Leyland claim that to grant the men’s demands would cost the company £600,000. The strikers think this, is an exaggeration but say that if it were true the is peanuts compared with the giant combine’s profits.

And if the figure of £600,000 is correct, it only shows how much below £24 a week skilled men at Leyland are getting.


Vin Murphy, vice-chairman of the stewards’ committee, contrasted the shabby treatment they were receiving with the directors’ rake-off.

‘Top management has devised a scheme that gives them thousands of pounds extra for each one of them,’ he said. ‘The productivity schemes that have been suggested to us have not been half so generous.’

There are signs that British Leyland is digging in its heels. The feeling is that it may be a long struggle, but the solidarity of the men is tremendous.

Messages of support to: Len Brindle, 8 Somerset Avenue, Chorley, Lancs.

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