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The Reyrolle Story: 44 - Merger With Clark-Chapman

Reyrolle. now fighting for its existence, merges with yet another large manufacturing concern.

Robert Owen continues his history of a once-prestigious Tyneside firm.

To purchase a copy of Robert's book The Reyrolle Story 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

In June 1977, as part of the celebration of the Queen's Jubilee, the Company held a series of Open Days, when thousands of visitors toured the factory. Earlier the same year, seven former apprentices had visited Buckingham Palace to be presented with the Duke of Edinburgh's Gold Award by the Duke himself.

Also in 1977 the Company had a joint visit from twp local M.P.s and two prospective Parliamentary candidates. During a structured one day visit they toured the factory, met management and had discussions with trade union representatives.

After 20 years as Reyrolle's Safety Officer, George Hadley retired in 1977 and was replaced by Bob Charlton. Bob continued the good work and in 1980 the Company were awarded the Engineering Employer's Federation Three Star Prize for safety.

Another significant change on the corporate front took place in 1977. This time it was between the Reyrolle-Parsons Group and the large Gateshead based engineering group Clark-Chapman, who manufactured boilers and ship related equipment. The new mammoth organisation was appropriately named Northern Engineering Industries (NEI) and came into existence in September 1977.

Many long serving Reyrolle employees were unimpressed with the Parsons merger in 1968. They were even less impressed with the Clark-Chapman merger in 1977, when it was argued the two firms had no common products. Observers counter-argued that the products were complementary and with Clark-Chapman providing the boilers and Reyrolle-Parsons the turbines and switchgear, the new organisation had many advantages when quoting for future power station work.

The start of 1978 seemed to suggest a favourable year for NEI-Reyrolle. In spite of expectations the merger had gone well and a headline in The Times read "Clark-Chapman controversial link-up begins to show a profit". The large switchgear division inNEI-Reyrolle was divided into separate Power and Distribution Divisions and order prospects looked good.

However, during the spring of 1978, a damaging pay dispute developed with the major technical staff trade union - the Technical and Supervisory Staff (TASS). The dispute went back many years and hinged on TASS trying to persuade the Company to give the Union sole negotiation rights for all technical staff. After several walkouts and strike threats, the Company finally conceded the issue. With TASS now in effective control of the technical function, a full scale strike followed. It lasted 12 weeks and was the longest and most damaging in the history of Reyrolle. It indirectly contributed to further redundancies.


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