Unions and their Perfidy

Twinscrew, Going Postal
Old Factory, Johannes Ko CC Licence

I served my time as a Toolmaker in a contract shop on the Kirkby Trading Estate near Liverpool, finishing and fully qualified in 1961 I realised that staying at the same place you would always be considered an apprentice so struck out and started to work at Meccano Ltd,
This was a closed shop so I had to join the AEU, I had few doubts about how the union worked as I used to call in the local branch and pay the subs of fellow workmates as an apprentice and watch how they conducted their business, my story starts after having worked there for a couple of years,

To make Dinky toys it is necessary to make a mould and this was done using a wooden pattern of the shape required and then using a pantograph machine to cut the metal block to shape, this is laborious and very time consuming so when GKN brought out a machine known as a Spark Erosion Machine which could be left running day and night and no tea breaks either, it seemed a Godsend to the bosses,
The management ordered this machine which nobody had ever seen before and plonked it on the shop floor. Now comes the bit where everybody stands around and says, who is going to work it. Of course we have to have a meeting and me being the minute taker I was involved. Consider there are only two of these machines in the whole UK so the chances of there being an operator are pretty slim. Despite this glaring fact, the committee decided that they would place an advert in the Liverpool Echo, after four weeks of no takers except two chancers who fancied the job despite never having worked in engineering before, we had another meeting,
Now it was decided we would all be trained in the use of this machine and a bod came down and demonstrated it, of course the beauty of this machine was that once set it could be left until finished, this entailed the operator standing around watching it for up to 12 hours so could be employed on some other work. This displeased the brothers and so they decided that only work pertaining to the current job number could be worked on.

All this was minuted by me and given to the bosses and they accepted it, now we come to my tale of how quickly the brothers will desert you to save their own backsides.
Some time later I was on the machine and doing something else, on the same job number of course when the foreman asked me to go into the press shop and sort something out, I reminded him that I couldn’t do this without stopping the work on the machine which of course didn’t need my interference at all, he said OK and I duly stopped the machine, see how silly this is getting, I had to remove the broken tool from the press in the press shop and bring it into the toolroom to do some repair work on it, during this time a loud bellow came from the toolroom superintendent (a blunt Yorkshire chap who was very sound) who on passing the machine noticed it was off with a job half done on the lines of. Who the f**k is on this machine and why is it off.
I informed him it was me and also the rule about job switching which he said he wasn’t aware of, summoning the shop committee, three of them, to his office, the shop committee consisted of what I called Meccano men, you know the type, time servers all of them until retirement. After some heated discussion which I watched from the floor, the office was one of those raised glazed type from which the boss can oversee the workers, I was called in.

These blokes know nothing about any rule he says to me and the Meccano men looked on not looking at all sheepish, OK say I, and off I trot to get the minute book out of my bench drawer, opening it to the page with the disputed rule to show him I noticed with glee that it was seconded by two of the tossers stood in front of me. I showed him the page and was asked to leave, from the shop floor I watched with some enjoyment as the three brothers received some good old fashioned Yorkshire dialect for making him look a right twat.

So you see, when the chips are down in the brotherhood, don’t expect any assistance or solidarity as it’s every man for himself.
I was thankful to leave there shortly afterwards to start my own engineering company and therein lies another tale of run ins with the brothers.

© Twinscrew 2019

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