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eleco: memories

"My particular job was making the Perspex covers for the lamps. I was on piece-work and my idea was to make as much money as possible so that I could travel to Italy where a summer job as a tourist guide was waiting for me. We had to make thirteen lamps an hour for the basic wage and each cover after that was about 3d extra. The job was rated so that if someone worked hard he could complete about seventeen."

"I decided that I must improve on that; so I did my own studies of the machines and found that I could easily operate two machines at the same time by carefully planning my route between them and using two hands simultaneously, flicking a handle on one press as I passed it on the way to the other machine, and then nipping back quickly to raise the press."

"I really enjoyed my innovations and managed an average of about 32 covers per hour. This went on for about three weeks until the foreman took me aside and said I must slow down because the men in the main factory had heard about me (covers were in a separate building) and were afraid that the Time and Motion man would be around with his stopwatch and re-evaluate the job - and then all other jobs. They had threatened to go on strike if either management didn't sack me or I didn't slow down. The shop steward even came to me and wanted me to join the union, but I wasn't interested in something that I would have no need for as a tourist guide!"

"Eventually the T & M man came around with his stopwatch. The foreman had warned me in advance and said that I should only operate one machine - and not too quickly; he also said that the general manager had promised that if I kept to a little more than 13 an hour in future, and kept my mouth shut, they would pay me the same wages that I had already been averaging. So for the purposes of demonstration for T & M, I knocked out about 15 covers. He smiled and said, 'They got at you, didn't they? Never mind. It'll be okay; you won't lose.'"

"For the rest of my employment there, I continued to work to my own frenzied pattern, but for only half an hour and then read a book for the other half hour. Everybody was happy!"

"The company paid me a fixed sum of an extra five pounds a week for going slow and keeping my mouth shut! When I admitted a couple months later, when I handed in my notice, that I had lied earlier about having had lots of factory experience since I was sixteen, and had actually completed two years of a science degree, the General manager said that he had had his suspicions when I applied for the job but had decided to give me a try since they were short-handed anyway. He then offered me a position on the management side - which in spite of its appeal, I declined in favour of the sunnier climes of Italy."

Geoff White
Memories of working at the Sphere Works in the early 1960s.