Joe Conway was a Union Convenor at Westland and remembers setting-up the Welfare Committee
Workers at Westland with financial problems would be helped through a special fund run by the unions. Joe Conway recalls how the fund was topped-up with contributions from everyone who worked at the Yeovil factory.
Westlands had a thriving, thriving community, those were in everything, you know what I mean. If something was happening Westlands were involved in it. They had their own welfare, we had a Welfare Committee and every year we weren’t allowed to make a profit. Everyone paid 50p, every employee, and at the end of the year you had like this money because we couldn’t make a profit so we had to go and give it to somebody.
We’d say here’s £20 and that helped them through
I remember we went and bought special seats for autistic children, with special learning difficulties. People who were ill, we gave money to individuals, you know. We really went around the community and did our bit with that money. And I was involved with that. It was a wonderful time. Unfortunately, the Welfare Committee wrapped up just as I left, you know, legal technicalities with it, what you could do with that money and how you spend it and the tax issues with it and all that made it impossible for us to do it. But in those days everyone paid in and you know, somebody had weeks off sick, and you had a family, you didn’t get paid, so he could come to the welfare, and we’d say here’s £20 and that helped them through.
We got our pension scheme in 1976
If they had a real serious illness, you know, you could give them a £100. It would last them for six months. It was great really. But as time went on, you know, when we fought for better conditions and we got rid of those two sets of toilets, got staff conditions, only one set of toilets, we then got the right to get paid if you were sick. So when you were ill, you got paid as well, so everyone else in the factory was on that, on those terms, so why shouldn’t we be. And then we got our pension scheme in 1976, fought for by the union, so fantastic.
There were some sad times, but most of sad the times were about redundancies, you know when you saw people going that was the saddest time.