HC Deb 08 May 1956 vol 552 cc986-7
5. Mr. Moss

asked the Minister of Labour if he is aware of the strike of workers at Standard Motors in Coventry owing to a dispute caused by the introduction of automatic processes; and, in view of the concern of the workers about the impact of automation upon their future livelihood, if he will make a statement.

Mr. Iain Macleod

I am aware of the strike at the Standard Motor Company, Coventry, in support of a demand that instead of men being laid off short time should be introduced whilst one of the firm's factories is being retooled for the production of a new tractor. I understand that whilst a certain number of additional automatic processes will be installed this is only a part of the re-equipment of the factory and the installation of these particular machines is not the cause of the dispute.

Mr. Moss

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that at two mass meetings only two persons voted against the continuance of the strike, even though it is based upon short-time working instead of redundancy. which would mean a reduction in living standards all round? Is he further aware that the issue immediately at stake is what shall happen over the installation of new plant over a period of about eight weeks, and that the introduction of automatic processes will rouse industrial unrest again unless principles can be applied which are agreed upon in advance and honoured by both parties?

Mr. Macleod

I do not want to comment on the status of the strike. It is at the moment, of course, unofficial. I understand that ten unions are meeting at York tomorrow to discuss their attitude towards it. In spite of that, conciliation officers of my Department have been in touch with the management and the unions. We shall continue to do what we can. This relates to what I said in my main reply to the last Question. if any changes, whether they be by way of automation or not, are to be introduced, it is absolutely essential that from the beginning the unions should be brought into the very closest consultation.