The strikers talk:
‘We’ve: given in now because the company’s starved us back.. . so many bills behind the mantelpiece clock one more would push it off’
The 10-week strike over, three Jaguar workers discuss in a Coventry pub wages lost and the aftermath of bills to be paid. By Clifford Webb
Jaguar car workers yesterday complained that throughout their strike they had been misunderstood by the public who were not told about their special problems. They just read in the papers that there’s another strike by people already earning £40 a week and they don’t want to know.
“To them we’re just a lot of bloody-minded troublemakers who, are stopping people getting their new cars and costing the country a lot of money”. said Mr Paul Alders, a 28-year-old track worker.
“Take my case for instance. I earned £1600 last year. Thats a damned sight nearer £30 than £40 a week. We seldom get a full week’s work in. We are always being sent home because they are short of some component or another. Usually it’s because of a shortage .of engines and axles from the Daimler. It’s because we lose so much time through no fault of our own that we have to stick out for high weekly wages. If we didn’t we should be in a terrible state. This strike has cost me several hundred pounds and I have a wife, a child and another on the way. Who is going to leave them short just,to be a bloody nuisance ?… Not me. They are threatening to cut the electricity off, the mortgage hasn’t been paid since the strike started and neither has the hire purchase on the car.”
Mr John Turner, 32, married with two children, said: “This is a terrible industry to work in. It’s dog eat dog. Remember the company had about a year’s notice that we were due for an increase. Most other sections of the,factory except us lads who actually make the cars have had increases of £4 a week and more. It is always the track worker who gets the rough end of the deal. He is the first to be laid off when they run short of components and remember it’s not his fault. We don’t keep running out on strike like most folks seem to think from what they read in the papers. This is one of the most peaceful factories in Coventry.”
Mr David Craddock, 29, married with one child, has worked at Jaguar for nearly six years. He said “In that time I have only once voted for a strike; Of course I know that in 10 weeks we have all suffered and some a great deal more than others. Folks wonder why the hell we have stayed out that long, and I for one would have stayed out a lot longer. The answer is simple. It’s the only way we can get more out of the firm and we’ve got to have a good weekly wage packet to make up for all the times we arrive for work at 7 o’clock and are sent home at 8 o’clock because they’re short of components.
“We’ve had something like 11 full weeks work this year. It’s all right for folks to read in the papers that we kept turning down £44 a week but that’s not much good if you can’t work regularly. We’ve only given in now because the company have starved us back. Some of the chaps have so many bills behind the clock on the mantelpiece that one more would push it off. If only the general public would realize that working in a car factory is not like working in an ordinary factory. The pressure is so terrible that if someone collapses on the line and dies the lads say: ‘Don’t forget to clock him out ‘.”
Most of the strikers refused to be interviewed as they left the meeting, insisting that the ‘press always ” got it wrong “. “You’ll print what you want and it will come out the same as it always does-car workers living off the fat of the land and never satisfied”, was one comment. Some of the strikers went out of their way to prevent interviews taking place by milling around and elbowing away anyone who wanted to talk. At one point I was spat on by a particularly aggressive man and while passing another group I was kicked on the shin.
Was the strike worthwhile?
Mr Fred Palmer, area organiser of the strikers union, the Vehicle Builders; confessed: “In monetary terms no. I do not think anyone believed this strike would last 10 weeks.”