Shop stewards at the Cowley car plant often faced criticism for urging workers to strike.

We’ve seen wives marching to get their striking menfolk back to work and calling for militant stewards to be sacked.

But this occasion was different. Some workers at this mass meeting in 1989 claimed that the stewards should be urging firmer action against the possible closure of part of the plant.

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There were fears that company bosses would close South Works and workers were worried they would lose their jobs. But the stewards stopped short of calling for industrial action.

They urged the 5,000 workers at the mass meeting on the Roman Way sports field to support a stepping-up of the campaign through negotiation and political pressure.

As the meeting endorsed the stewards’ recommendation by a show of hands, a group of workers forced their way to the platform and began heated exchanges with speakers.

Some claimed that the recommendation had not been properly explained before the vote, while others accused the stewards of “selling out”. They demanded stronger action.

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Ivor Braggins, the Transport and General Workers’ Union convenor, said: “I’m not ruling out some form of industrial action, but the time is not right. There is still a lot of talking to be done.”

Fears over the future of car production in Oxford had been raised when plans to build Rover-Honda cars near Swindon were announced. As we know, BMW eventually took over the Cowley site.

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About the author 

Andy is the Trade and Tourism reporter for the Oxford Mail and you can sign up to his newsletters for free here. 

He joined the team more than 20 years ago and he covers community news across Oxfordshire.

His Trade and Tourism newsletter is released every Saturday morning. 

You can also read his weekly Traffic and Transport newsletter.