I left school one Friday in June 1962 at the age of 15, I had no formal qualifications, I had no inclination towards any particular skill but a member of my family worked at a Ministry of Defence ordinance depot at Chilwell near Long Eaton where I lived so it was decided that’s where I would go. There were so many openings for boys leaving school in those days and every boy that I knew had got a job. I was to start work at 7.30 in the morning and finish at 4.30. You clocked in and when the hooter went at night everyone clocked out together. I worked there for 10 years until I joined British Rail Engineering Ltd in Derby. Things were so different back then, you were not thought to young to work at 15 and yes we did muck around a lot but they kept an eye on us and made sure we didn’t get into trouble. There was not so much mechanical handing equipment about as there is now so there was much more leg work and heavy lifting to be done but in those days there was work for everyman whether you were able bodied or not there were people employed just sweeping up who would have great difficulty in finding work today.
When I started at BREL LTD Derby it was very much like a family, we even had a social club and once a year you would all go to the seaside together for the day on a coach bosses and workers together and at Christmas time there would be a party for the family and every workers child would get a present. Your hours were very rigid you clocked on in the morning and off at night and no one did an extra hour just to get the job done. If there was more work than you could handle then they would arrange overtime, sometimes a couple of hours over at night or a Saturday or Sunday shift for which you were paid time and a half. Each Thursday or Friday you would queue up and get your money in a pay packet cash in hand was the normal way and very few had there money paid directly into a bank. Very few left before their retirement day unless they died of course and most weeks I remember we would be told to stop work and join a group in front of the foreman’s office when one of the bosses would come down and make a presentation to a work college who had just made is retirement age. A good majority of men I knew at work had worked in the same job nearly all of there working life and often there sons worked on the shop floor too or their daughters worked in the typing pool.
Much has changed over the last 200 years ago since what we call the Industrial Revolution, at the beginning the pioneers of industry who on realising that the most important commodity in building there empire not only built the factory but also houses for the workers, schools for the there family’s, hospitals and places of worship and entertainment to get the most out of the workforce, with the coming of technology the workforce has become less important and empire builders made more profit from selling there empire to others to look after, many going abroad, another change was the introduction of floating these industries on the stock market where investors bonuses come before workers pay.
There as been so many changes over the last 50 years to the labour market but mostly these changes have not benefitted the majority. We import more than we export, there is less stability for the working population and working conditions and wages for the majority have fallen. How will history judge these years I often wonder?