John Groves was a Design Engineer at Westland for nearly 50 yrs and remembers how staff and manual employees were treated differently
When I started, the first lot of staff, it was thirty-nine hours I think and the works were on about forty-one and we used to start half an hour later in the morning, a big advantage, and get away about half an hour before the main works. In the end, they near enough worked the same time.
What sort of jobs would have been staff and which manual?
All the manual jobs were works jobs, even people like tool makers, all the fitters, all the machinists, everything, and the works staff were like clock clerks and things like that, progress officers, they were still staff but they worked works times. All the clerical work was considered staff jobs. All the works were works jobs. You were paid literally hourly. You only had to be a minute late and you’d lose five minutes money when I started.
Did you ever go on strike?
Oh, just after we came back, there was a big argument in the firm about low salaries paid to the design staff, engineering staff. We went out a couple of days and the firm decided we were right. Because our rates of pay, back in the early fifties, were far less than Bristol’s for a start, thinking of other aeroplanes, Gloucester’s and Saunders Rowe, we had very low rates of pay. The main argument from the management was “Well it’s lovely countryside round here, you’re out in the country”. But, anyway, we did get equality of pay in the end when we threatened to walk out completely. I think it was Mr Wealden was the Managing Director then and he conceded it.