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The Reyrolle Story: 34 - Feeding The Thousands

Feeding the thousands who worked for the giant Tyneside engineering firm Reyrolle was a massive task, as Robert Owen reveals.

To purchase a copy of Robertís 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

Like most large organisations, Reyrolle had a successful Company Superannuation Scheme which all male staff members were obliged to join. It was not until the 1960's and, even then after much negotiation, that members from the factory were allowed to participate. Also in 1963, the first female graduate commenced employment with the Company. This again presented new problems and caused the Rules of the Superannuation scheme to be modified before she could be admitted.

Works Suggestion Schemes are usually portrayed as a handy means of letting the boss know what his employees think of him under the cloak of anonymity. Not so in Reyrolle. Writing in 1968 the retiring Suggestion Scheme Secretary, Oswell Robson, praised the scheme whereby over 10,000 suggestions had been scrutinised over the last 18 years.. Many workers were rewarded, up to £200, for their efforts and the Company benefited from reduced costs etc. The scheme was held in such high esteem that several firms wrote in asking for details on which to model their own.

The canteens played a vital part in feeding the Reyrolle thousands. A large canteen existed at both New Town and Hebburn works, where there was also a restaurant for senior staff. Most workers thought the service was good until an outside contractor took over in the fifties. In the hope of increasing efficiency, they changed the system. A three choice menu was displayed for the following day and workers were asked to purchase, in advance, and given a coloured token which represented their choice of meal. Using this method the new caterer hoped to produce a more accurate number of meals and reduce wastage. However, many workers didn't see it as simple as that, asking, "How do I know what I want to eat tomorrow?". Perhaps they had the last laugh? Many purchased all three tokens and decided the next day what they would have for their lunch!

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