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The Reyrolle Story: 28 - Rate Fixers

The Tyneside firm Reyrolles reaches a historical turning point and less happy times are ahead.

Robert Owen continues his history of a major British engineering concern.

Most production workers at Reyrolle were paid on a piecework system based on rate fixing. The rate-fixers were competent ex-tradesmen and. although wages varied from department to department, the system worked well and there was little industrial unrest during the prosperous fifties and early sixties.
Having recruited thousands of female workers and helped to solve hundreds of personal problems during the boom years, popular Madge Hunter - Womens' Employment Officer - retired in 1967 after 45 years service. She got a good' send-off with three presentations; from the management, the Sports Management Committee and the female supervisory staff.

Apart from a brief period of short time working in some departments during late 1959 and early 1960, working at Reyrolle during this period must have been very
encouraging. With the demand for most of its products continuing to grow, and with a new modern office block, research building and a light engineering shop, the future looked good. With relatively high wages and an isolated, comfortable environment the light engineering shop became known as "Treasure Island".

Expansion did not stop there, because in 1962 a new advance factory was leased at Simonside, near South Shields, to provide extra machine shop facilities and a newly constructed unit was opened by the Bushing Company to provide extra casin-resin products. It was all systems go! Measured by profits and the number employed, these developments brought Reyrolle to its peak of activity in 1967 when, for the first time, its workforce numbered near 12,000. Prime Minister Harold Macmillan claimed credit for the 'economic boom' boasting that during the 'swinging sixties' the majority of the population "never had it so good". England's football team winning the World Cup in 1966 added to the feel-good factor.

There was a sense of euphoria throughout the works, but with a changing world outside the gates, many workers wondered "How long could it last?" Some asked "Has the Company grown too large for its own good?"

Many economists argue that once an organisation grows to a certain size, the diseconomies of scale can apply and this results in complacency and inefficiency. Amongst other things this is usually evidenced by overstaffing, late deliveries, and poor communications. Did this apply to Reyrolle in 1967? Could it cope with any change in market conditions? Time would tell.

On the shop floor and in the offices, however, little did anyone suspect that Reyrolle had reached a historical turning point and that less happy times were just around the corner.


To purchase a copy of Robert's book please visit http://www.amazon.co.uk/Reyrolle-Story-History-Co-Ltd/dp/1905295073/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1245678876&sr=1-1


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