WORKERS' GRAVE ALLEGATIONS TO CATHOLIC HERALD
A startling story of inefficiency and mismanagement in a large aircraft factory has been brought to the attention of the Catholic Herald.
The grave complaint—which may well be typical of other sections of this vital production—comes from a deputation of five shop stewards at present in London and seeking to lodge their complaint with the responsible ministers, Mr. Sevin and Lord Beaverbrook.
Among the.stewards one is a Catholic, and close questioning made it evident that the present grievance is entirely of a nonpolitical character; it is. due to the workers' sense that the war against flitter is being daily held up on the most important of all the fronts through stupidity and self-seeking.
At the same time it was made clear that the ultimate results of this scandal will prove to be political, forcing impatient workers to turn to the one remedy daily dinned into their ears by propaganda. Communism.
It was because of their danger and because the national press was apparently uninterested that the Catholic member of the deputation insisted on bringing the story to the Catholic Herald.
We give the matter the fullest publicity because we are convinced that the only alternative solution to the Communist one is the Christian one: namely, a concrete programme of social and economic reform, backed by all Christians in the country, and propagated to the workers.
It was not possible in time to contact Mr. R. R. Stokes, M.P., a Catholic M.P. to whom the deputation wished to address themselves, but Mr. R. T. Acland, Liberal M.P., has examined the deputation's case and he has made these points in a statement to us.
1. In the first place he thought the men had made a good prima facie case.
2. That the deputation had the confidence and were entirely backed by the workers of the factory. They were not Communist inspired but were moved by a genuine desire to win the war. Their attitude was not even that, if these things can go on here, what's the good of fighting Hitler ? It was we must change these things and get on with the war against Nazism.
3. His third point was that the confidence of these ten thousand workers could only be restored by a properly instituted enquiry. That any enquiring body would fail to win these men unless it contained at least one member who was politically sympathetic to the workers and their equal or superior in industrial skill.
We understand Mr. Acland is taking steps to put forward the view he takes in quarters from which, if belatedly, strong and definite action may soon be expected.
BY BERNARD PRENTIS
(C.H. Staff Reporter) " We are here in London to protest because we feel that the genuine effort of some 10,000 workers is being deliberately sabotaged by a management at best incompetent, or at worst graft-ridden and selfishly profitseeking."
These were the words of a lively young shop stewaTd or an important aircraft factory in the North-West of England, who, with four of his fellows, had come to London to interview those in authority on behalf of the workers. " The big papers in Fleet Street do not seem to want our story." he told the CATHOLIC Ilegeen on the telephone. " At present one of our number is giving it to the Daily Worker.
"But the matter involved is not one of politics It is of national importance, of social justice.
"'I am a Catholic," he went on. " You could take our story, couldn't you? You often do take stories that our so-called free Press refuses. I don't see why the D.W. should make capital out of it. Could we come and see you?"
So later the speaker introduced himself— J. J. Dodgson, a young man with a sharp eye, an easy manner, confident, honest, armed with sheafs. His companions carne with him.
PROTESTS AND MEMORANDUM WENT UNHEEDED He told us that the deputation of five shop stewards are in London because their protests inside the factory went unheeded, and their memorandum to Mr. Sevin, Mr. Morrison and Lord Beaverbrook brought only formal replies.
The stewards' memorandum made the following specific charges against the management: 1. Productive inertia.
2. Shortages in material and equipment.
3. The system of sub-contracting.
4. Waste and lack of foresight in planning.
5. Lack of system.
Basing their appeal op the Labour leader's personal call for the co-operation of the workers, the memorandum recalls that the substance of their complaints is " not a new state of affairs, but is one of long standing," They offered in proof of this an excerpt from a letter written. to Sir Kingsley Wood when Minister for Air.
" Production is being deflated, large numbers are being dismissed through ' lack of work,' over fifty per cent, of our work is being sub-contracted, and the earning capacity of the workers is being curtailed in every way.
" Since Men," the memorandum continues, " there has been no improvement but rather, we would say, our efforts have been retarded. As you will imagine any conscientious body of men could not possibly ignore such a slate of affairs, particularly in a factory the cost of which, is borne solely by the State and the people.
HOW " GO TO IT "?
" Throughout the history of the factory," it continued, " there have been individuals striving for self-aggrandizement. We, as stewards, sought any and every possible way of tackling this matter with a view to improving conditions so that we could get down to producing that which we knew we were capable of, in a smoothly running machine."
The memorandum then refers to the "win over the worker " moves of the Government and relates how Mr. Beverley Baxter gave a talk in the works canteen. But the workers did not feel that they wanted convincing that the war against Nazism and Fascism was their war, that it was right, just. Al The end of the exhortation " GO TO IT," several shop stewards rose and asked how they could go to it without materials and equipment and without initiative on the part of the management. They gave technical references and particuldr examples.
"On the first point, Production inertia, " sontinua the memorandum, " we stated
that, even after twelve months' repetition, production errors, which we quoted and raised, were still recurring to the detriment of production. We proved points of production being held up for hours or even days while waiting For components, only to find that these same components were lying in the stores.
" The point about shortages was covered by statements in which we showed that material shortages were not assisted in any way by the manner in which final assemblers had very often to cut away great amounts of material in order to tit pacts to the plane. This fact in view of it recurring over a long period was further proof of inertia.
SUB-CONTRACTING SNAGS " There is a terrilic amount of work involved in sub-contracting (quoted verbatim from the original meeting), particularly paper work. If parts are scrapped or lost, about twenty forms require to be filled in to cover the error. Time wasted is enormous. It has been stated by the General Manager that sub-contracting is more of a Government policy than a domestic plan.
" Some time ago we met the Production Manager and discussed the demoralising effect sub-contracting was having on the men and output. The dismissals and enforced idleness had keyed the men up to strongly desiring a public demonstration. They felt that no public-spirited person would accept such a state with equanimity but rather with a disturbed. frame of mind and that the public would not tolerate a position that meant enormous expenditure in wages and over-heads, which are involved in a factory such as this, without a return of the national effort and said outlay.
" That which brought the men to this
slate was the fact that an entire machine section, namely the milling section, had been subject to a macs dismissal of millers while their work had been sub-contracted.
DECENTRALISATION—A DEFENCE " The Production Manager quoted decentralisation of production as the main defence of the sub-contracting system, Our union officials investigated this and we agreed that such a motive was excellent, but a conclusion was also reached that we were gaining nothing and that output was merely being transferred to other centres and our own paralysed, thus defeating the object aimed at. We mean that instead of duplicating production to minimise the effect of an air-raid we had merely destroyed a unit of our aircraft production. The only section of the community which benefited from this scheme were the sub-contractors themselves.
" Our General Manager also found himself a focal point for similar thoughts because his son is the assistant general manager of a firm who are the recipients of substantial sub-contracts. Therefore it is only fair to the workers to agree that there is much to establish their suspicion, and we wouIrl greatly appreciate, on their behalf, some facts to offer to explain what may be a coincidence.
" A further point raised was that these facts, so well known to us, must surely have been open to the knowledge of the management, and we can only assume, from the continuance of this state of affairs, that they condoned it and, in addition, the fact that we had repeatedly brought the question of sub-contracting and its effects to the production manager without any result, emphasited in our minds the need for decisive action by a man of your calibre."
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