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The Reyrolle Story: 42 - Desperate Years

Robert Owen charts the run-down of the once-great Tyneside manufacturing concern, Reyrolle.

To purchase a copy of Robert's book The Reyrolle Storoy please click on

Nationally the early and mid seventies were years of major industrial unrest, high inflation and an energy crisis. Locally, Reyrolle had little industrial trouble until the redundancies started. Then most trade unions adopted a natural role ofprotectiomsm and many disputes developed.

First there was a much publicised strike by clerical workers, then a damaging demarcation dispute between boiler makers and sheet-metal workers. At the same time the major technical staff trade union - the Technical and Supervisory Staff (TASS) - were fighting for sole union negotiation rights for all technical staff. While this was going on, the Company struggled through a Government imposed three day working week which was introduced to save electricity after the coal miner pickets had closed power stations in a bid for increased wages.

The early seventies were not good years for Reyrolle. The Financial Editor of The Times told of their trouble with the following headlines:

'Reyolle-Parsons moves deeper into a trough" 'Reyrolle-Parsons suffer another hard blow" 'State aid for Reyrolle?" 'How bad is the Reyrolle Story?" 'Reyrolle plant warn after fresh cutbacks" 'Assessing the pace of Reyrolle's recovery"

1973 was also the year Reyrolle moved back into the Conference field; over 200 delegates selected from throughout the Company assembled at Durham University for a three day event to discuss Company re-organisation. The main outcome was the much repeated cry that employees "lacked information on what is happening within the Company".

With a much reduced workforce Reyrolle needed less accommodation and the first building to be vacated was the seven storey office block. The fifteen year old building was still in prime condition and was soon occupied by the D.H.S.S. In 1974, Edward Judge ended his turbulent years as Chairman of the Board of the Reyrolle-Parsons Group. He was replaced by Sir J.B Woodeson who had been Chairman of Clark-Chapman at Gateshead for many years. Was this a hint of the next merger?


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