1947 - 1965 Sports, Welfare & Worker Participation


Company Publications - Sports & Welfare - Joint Consultation - Suggestion Schemes - The £1,000 Industrial Competition

Soon after WWII the Company turned its attention to creating a more interesting and involving environment for the work force, on the principle that "A happy worker is a good worker".    The result was achieved by five innovations - the publication of a Company Magazine, the introduction of Sports and Welfare Clubs, the setting up of Joint Consultation Committees, the introduction of Suggestion Schemes and Occaisional Competitions.
Company publications
Early in 1946 Richard Thomas & Baldwin 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 a copy and ran for many years, eventually increasing to eight pages for the same price until it was superseded, after the second nationalisation of the steel industry in 1967, by a less interesting paper, "Steel News".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 newspaper.   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 first at the works site, during the lunch break, where a small number of 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 more eager to leave for home and, no doubt to the dismay of the projectionists, few stayed to watch.   The series ran for 35 issues, although records only exist now for a few of these.   Early in 1952 Ingot Pictorial acquired some footage produced by English Electric Company illustrating the use of electricity in mines and using Irthlingborough Mine as an example.   They included this item in their tenth edition.   This was the first time that Irthlingborough was included in their series of films but it was not to be the last.   The film unit came to Irthlingborough in 1955 to record an item for the 20th. issue of Ingot Pictorial, which illustrated the 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 (1 p.) 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 of entering a local league; they practised for a while at Irthlingborough Cricket Club’s ground, but by 1950 were using the Company’s own 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.).
     Other popular activities were the Skittle, Darts and Bowls Teams and, in particular, the Fishing Club.   They initially used one of the Works' reservoirs, known as ‘The Ring Reservoir’ on account of its shape (see Works Site 1965), but there was a problem.   An excerpt from the Ingot News for April 1952 tells the story.
A further excerpt in the Ingot News for January 1953 gives an example of Sports and Welfare in action.
The Irthlingborough Fishing Club, which was a relatively small group compared with those of other sections of the Company, went on to win the interworks competitions for two years running, in 1956 and 1957,and again in 1959.   Not to be outdone, the Cricket Team also won the Wellingborough and District Cricket League for two years running in 1954 and 1955.
     The Clay Pit had been created by the Metropolitan Brick & Tile Works when digging the clay to make bricks in the early 1900's.   After 1976, when the area was sold for housing, the Clay Pit was partly filled in to form a private decorative feature for what is now known as Lakeside.
Popular Christmas parties and seaside outings were introduced for employees᾿ children, while some of the Sports & Welfare fund was used to create a pleasant environment of lawns and flower gardens (fig 5.) around the workshops and offices.

Joint Consultation
After the Second World War Britain began to consider ways of involving workers more closely in decision-making within national enterprises.    While this is not to be confused with ‘worker co-operatives’, it was, nevertheless, a form of worker democracy, a system whereby workers, together with managers, formed decision-making committees.
     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, announced to a public meeting in Swansea a five-point plan for the future of the Company.   One of his points was :
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, cost and durability 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 some 15,000 feet (4,572 m.) of drilling was undertaken at Irthlingborough each week into a rock face up to 7 feet (2.1 m.) deep, drilling apparatus had to be of the first quality to keep the mine working at full capacity.
Suggestion Schemes
In order to encourage workers into further co-operation on improvements to working practices, the Company introduced, in 1958, a national suggestions scheme, known as the ‘Jackpot’ scheme, under which monetary prizes were given to the originators of approved innovations.   Several workers at Irthlingborough received such awards, 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.    The 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 them over the side, as on the old BEVs.
     Later that year a further three fitters together invented a machine, using bicycle parts, which permitted a welder, working on drill tips, to rotate the drill using a foot pedal; this left both hands free to carry on welding without stopping to adjust the drill manually.   This change resulted in an astounding 30% increase in the number of drills processed during one shift.
     One idea which, 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.

The £1,000 Industrial Competition.
In December 1949, through the organ of the Ingot News, the Education Department of RTB announced, in a centre page spread, an industrial competition inviting the whole workforce to submit answers to some very searching questions relating to the current economic climate of the country.   Prizes totalling £1,000 were being offered for the best submissions throughout the Company; at Irthlingborough prizes of £25 and £5 were achieved.    The £5 prize went to a foreign worker and the £25 was won by Arthur Haxley, the works carpenter, who was quite used to submitting articles to a magazine called ‘Reveille’ under the pen-name of 'Benchmark'.   On the subject of the competition, he was reported in the Ingot News as saying:-
Perhaps he was right, because here is a sample of the questions that were set.
     From a list of six terms in frequent use in the press and on the radio, entrants were asked to choose any four, and explain in their own words, what was understood by them.
There were a further ten questions of which six were to be answered.   Two examples were as follows :-
The competition, surprisingly, proved to be a great success, and two years later, in July 1951, the Company launched an essay competition on much the same lines.