Dave Calway worked at Westland 46 yrs and remembers being involved in one of the longest strikes in the company's history
I was quite a strong union minded person because I considered the management were not up to the job they should have been doing. And, I think that one or two managers showed that to be the case. I thought the company could have done better to get people working better. They were pretty lax and allowed a lot of things to go on which didn’t earn the company money, you know. You’ve got to have the attitude that the company is there to make money in order to keep going and your job depended on it so you can’t start saying “I’m not going to work” and this sort of thing because if you don’t work, you don’t get money. But there were times when we did go out on strike for one thing or another but it was not the sort of political emphasis that there is nowadays and although we did have a couple of major strikes and that, it did bring us to a point where we were collaborating with the company rather than working against it because the union saw, perhaps not at the start of the union but in later years, it was better to be constructive and put forward ideas that were going to make the company better, more profitable and then try to get the money from the profits.
Can you remember how long some of these strikes went on for?
I think one went on for six weeks and that was over money. We didn’t get a lot of money. We got some money from the company, I think it was in terms of strike pay and the unions paid us a bit of money but it was very hard times then. Six weeks, I think, six or eight weeks it went on for and it was very hard, you know. We used to go up to the British Legion and sign for our money that we got. You didn’t get very much money but then the wages were not that high, not like today, you know, today’s fortunes.
You couldn’t bear it, you couldn’t stand it, so yes, it was very hard times and there were one or two people who didn’t go out on strike and afterwards their life became very difficult because it was a very strong union held company and if they went out on strike the stewards held so much sway with the company that those guys who didn’t go out were, you know, not given the best of jobs and it wasn’t too long before they actually left. So, it was a very strong union company and thank goodness they were working together at the end of the day to generally improve the company.