1947 - 1965 Sports, Welfare & Worker Participation
Company Publications - Sports & Welfare - Joint Consultation - Suggestion Schemes
Soon after the end of WWII the Company turned its attention to creating a more interesting and involving environment for the workforce, on the principle that "a happy worker is a good worker".
The result was achieved by four innovations - the publication of a Company Magazine, the introduction of Sports and Welfare Clubs, the setting up of
Joint Consultation Committees and the introduction of Suggestion Schemes.
Early in 1946 Richard Thomas & Baldwins inaugurated "Ingot" (fig. 1),
a new quarterly glossy magazine;
5000 copies were produced at each run and were sold to employees throughout the Company, at 3d. (1p.) per copy.
Unfortunately, after only the second issue, the country was hit by a stringent paper shortage; it was discovered, however, that it was possible to publish a newspaper instead, using ordinary newsprint,
and in August of that year, after only two editions of "Ingot" had been published,
the Company introduced its four-page newspaper, "Ingot News" (fig. 2).
This was priced at 1d. a copy and ran for many years, eventually increasing to eight pages for the same price until it was
superseded, after the second nationalisation of the steel industry in 1967, by a less interesting paper, "Steel News".
When glossy paper became available again the Company reintroduced "Ingot" magazine alongside its
It went on, in June 1962, to beat 13 other journals to win "The Award of Excellence" in the annual journal competition of the British Association of Industrial Editors.
From November 1949 a film series, known as "Ingot Pictorial", was produced for the Company at quarterly intervals by Technical and Scientific Films, and later by Verity Films.
The purpose of the series, according to Howard Marshall, Director of Personnel and Public Relations for the Company, and frequent commentator for the series, was to instil a 'sense of pride' in the Company.
A mobile van (fig. 3)
would arrive at intervals to show the films during the workers' lunch-time breaks; in Wales, where most of the Company's Works were situated, they were shown at local cinemas to which employees could bring along their wives and families.
In this way RTB could claim that they showed each ‘cinemagazine’ to 25,000 workers in 30 works scattered from Lancashire to South Wales.
When the van arrived at Irthlingborough the film would be shown firstly during the lunch break at the works site, when several employees would stand and watch; later in the day, however, when it arrived at the Steps
Entrance to give a second showing to miners leaving the morning shift, the men were eager to leave for home and, no doubt to the dismay of the projectionists, few would stay to watch.
The series ran for 35 issues, although records now exist for a few of these only.
The film unit came to Irthlingborough in July 1947 to record, for the 20th. issue of Ingot Pictorial, the newly mechanised underground system; the resulting film was shown both within the Company and in
local cinemas at Wellingborough, Finedon, Burton Latimer and Irthlingborough.
Later, on October 2 1957, the unit returned to record the re-opening of the refurbished Hostel by the Italian Ambassador, Count Zoppi (see Chapter Five).
Sports & Welfare
January 1947 saw the country-wide introduction of a ‘Sports and Welfare’ scheme to which
each employee was to contribute 3d (1p.) per week by deduction from wages.
At Irthlingborough only one worker objected to this ‘imposition’.
The Company itself contributed generously, while each Works or ‘Section’ was left to organize its own activities.
At Irthlingborough a ten-man Committee first set about forming a cricket team with the view to entering a local league; they practised for a while at Irthlingborough Cricket Club’s ground, but by 1950 were enjoying the Company’s new 7- acre (2.83 Ha.) sports ground near the Water Tower at Finedon; the ground had been launched with a sports day in 1949 (fig. 4).
Popular too were the Skittle Team and, in particular, the Fishing Club.
On the works site an old clay pit, dating from the days of the Metropolitan Brick & Tile Works, and now newly stocked with fish, became available as a lake where anglers could practice their skills before taking part in competitions against other Works Sections.
Much enjoyed also were the Christmas parties and seaside outings organised for employees᾿ children.
A proportion of the Sports & Welfare
fund was used to create a pleasant environment of lawns and flower gardens around the workshops and offices (fig. 5).
After the Second World War Britain began to consider ways of involving workers more closely and personally in decision making within national enterprises.
While this procedure is not to be confused with ‘worker co-operatives’ it was, nevertheless, a form of working-place
democracy, a system whereby
workers and managers together discussed new ideas and working practices.
It can fairly be said that RTB was in the forefront of this movement, which became known within the Company as ‘Joint Consultation’.
As early as October 1947 Mr. E.H. Lever, Chairman of RTB, addressing a public meeting in Swansea, put forward a five-point plan for the future of the Company.
As one of his proposals he said: ‘I am determined that there should be increasing opportunities for mutual consultation’.
A short time later, proposals for the development of consultation throughout RTB were brought by Mr Lever before the Board, by whom they were formally adopted as official Company Policy.
At Irthlingborough, on Monday afternoon, the 8 July 1948, the first ‘Joint Production Committee’ was formed to discuss various aspects of working conditions.
No records remain of this and subsequent meetings, other than that, in June 1950, the Committee discussed the need for Saturday working, and, during 1952, considered the usefulness, life and cost of steel drills, which were a major item in the total production budget;
any innovation which might prolong their life was of the first importance.
As a total of some 15,000 feet (4,572 m.) of drilling was undertaken each week penetrating up to 7 feet (2.1 m.) deep at each operation, drilling apparatus had to
be of the first quality to keep the mine working at full capacity.
In order to encourage workers into further co-operation on improvements to working practices, the Company introduced, in 1958, a national suggestions scheme under which monetary prizes were given to the originators of approved innovations.
Several workers at Irthlingborough received awards under this scheme,
the first of them a fitter, who, in early 1960, designed and built a modified BEV battery locomotive (fig. 6)
on the lines of the Greenwood & Batley locos.
With the help of his fellow electricians and blacksmiths he adapted the loco to accept Greenwood & Batley battery containers, fitted lights front and back and
redesigned the braking and lubrication system.
His greatest contribution to safety, however, and no doubt the one that gained him the award, was the adaptation which allowed the driver
to sit with his legs safely inside the vehicle instead of hanging over the side, as on the old BEVs.
Later that year a further three fitters, using bicycle parts, together invented a machine
which permitted a welder, working on drill tips, to rotate the drill using a foot pedal; he now had both hands free to carry on welding without stopping to adjust the drill manually.
This change resulted in an amazing 30% increase in the number of drills processed during one shift.
One idea which, perhaps not surprisingly, proved unsuccessful at Irthlingborough was the introduction by Head Office of a Suggestions Box, into which men could post written ideas for consideration.
It was withdrawn after a few weeks due to the rather ribald and unhelpful remarks which were received.