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Raymond Challinor

Challinor’s Choice

(15 May 1969)

From Socialist Worker, No. 122, 15 May 1969, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

THE UNDERLYING REASON for the giant GEC/English Electric merger was to lower labour costs so that profits could be increased. While the company told workers redundancy was inevitable, painting a bleak picture of trade prospects, it gave shareholders an entirely different idea; ‘With prospective rationalisation measures margins should improve.’

There was talk of pre-tax profits rising from the current figure of £60 million to something like £100m within the next few years.

Arnold Weinstock and his fellow directors seem determined, irrespective of the social hardships it causes, to pursue profits to the utmost. They expect profits from diesel engine production to rise from four to seven million pounds during the next three years.

Nevertheless, they intend to sack 1,100 workers who make these engines at the historic Vulcan works, Newton-le-Willows, a factory founded by George Stephenson to make the first locos for the Manchester-Liverpool line.

A small town, called Vulcan, has grown up around the workers. If Weinstock continues with his plans, the town is likely to be reduced to a ghost town, the Jarrow of the Sixties.


IT IS IMPORTANT that workers understand the role of the Wilson government. It has created the Industrial Reconstruction Corporation, with Leslie Cannon of the ETU as one of its board members. This corporation aims at promoting mergers by providing public funds to facilitate them. So when workers become unemployed after a take-over and the inevitable sackings follow, they should find it even more distressing since it is their own money (i.e. public money) which is helping to get them dismissed.

The Wilson government also aids employers in another way, Barbara Castle’s Department of Employment and Productivity has recently set up a special section to give expert advice to the bosses on such problems as dealing with a militant shop stewards’ committee or implementing a dismissals policy with the minimum opposition.

How to beat militants

WHAT THE EMPLOYERS want are tame unions. This is clearly indicated by a private document that miraculously fell into my lap this week. It was BTR Industries A Short Guide to Industrial Relations, a confidential manual intended as a guide to its own management.

The company’s aim is to have the fullest collaboration with the Municipal and General Workers’ Union. The firm will ‘encourage membership of the union and assist the union to maintain and increase their membership.’ This is done, the manual declares, ‘in the interests of good management/labour relations.’

There is, however, a second reason for the company endeavouring to assist the MGW to maintain its membership – ‘the danger of infiltration’ by a more militant organisation;

‘If the official union’s membership declined to such an extent, or disappeared altogether, a rival union which, for many reasons, was an undesirable union from management’s point of view might well quietly recruit sufficient members among our employees to far outnumber the official union, justifying an approach by the infiltrating union for official status and negotiating rights.’

So, if BTR Industries’ attitude is any indication, the British capitalists’ motto seems to be: ‘Back the Municipal and General.’

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Last updated: 15 January 2021