Employment Rights !

When I first started work as an apprentice HGV Fitter with a local small family run haulage company in 1977 I was paid £30pw for 40hrs, plus 4hrs Time & a Half Saturday Mornings, Sunday & Bank holidays ( which were never actually worked ) Double Time.

It didn’t cost me anything for travel as it was only 1 minute walk away, but I could afford to run a 50 mph 50cc Moped to go to tech at Accrington on and visit relatives and friends, social domestic and pleasure on petrol at just under £1 a gallon. When I was 17 I got a Suzuki B100P ( old codgers bike ) for a short while before swapping my Moped for a bent Suzuki 185GT, which I repaired to go to tech on etc, then as the company was expanding had to use it to travel a mile to the local trading estate.

As a progressed through my apprenticeship the hourly rate increased to a point where I could afford to run a old Mini to avoid getting wet, plus afford to get into serious railway modeling, then after getting friends with a guy at Settle with a Suzuki Jeep, bought an old Diesel Land-Rover. We went to the summit of Ingleborough, Pendle Hill and traversed the former drovers roads in the Yorkshire Dales as now strictly verboten. I got my diesel free as a perk but I fell out with my employer over my rate of pay ( by then I was doing a fully skilled man’s job and the fitter who trained me had also left ) and we parted ways.

By then I was almost 21 and just after my birthday took a 3 day crash HGV Class1 driving course and passed 2nd time, immediately after which got a job with an old school friends dad who ran a small Plant Hire Site Tipper company at the nearest town. Again free diesel plus good experience but soon the work became boring, and even though I was paid £120 in the hand for 50hrs, the risk of getting banned from driving on tyre defects after going on tips was not worth the hassle.

I then got a job as a Fitter at Transport Engineering Althan building Gritters, mostly light work so OK with my knackered back, was chosen to build and fit the body for an orange Dodge spreader to put down the sand at Windsor to stop the horses slipping on the tarmac during the Queen’s parades. I’ve forgot the exact hourly rate ( 39hrs ) but overtime was only Time and a Third, but got plenty delivering gritters and the demonstrator for their demoutable system. The snag came when they started using heavy electronic control valves and my back failed and I was off work, they contacted me and said if I came back the next week they would make me foreman hydraulic fitter. I wasn’t up to it and I had already been offered a job by the dad of my best friend from tech, who I had already worked for driving artic taut-liners during the holidays from Altham.

My friends dad paid me Union rates, £2.50 an hrs but minimum 50hrs pw whether you worked it or not, an ideal job for my back problem as no lifting and mostly smooth motorway driving, just the curtain to pull back only snag night out money only a tenner tax free. Dodge at Dunstable with cab front panels was a doddle in a day, likewise Triumph wings to Pegasus Phosprime at Daventry, Ford Dagenham Engine Plant ( sumps ) and Langley Truck Plant back panels A & roofs B ) were a night out. However, I worked out that I could do Langley in a then 8hr driving day if you went down the M1 to the A405 at Watford, then what’s now the M25 through to the M40 and a short cut avoiding the jams through Slough I found by following another Langley deliverer and good friend old fox Harold from Silloth.

We were both really good friends with Bob the stacker truck driver at Langley A Body in White, who would do his level best to ensure we got set back north before the traffic built up. likewise Les the works manager who was the spitting image of and sounded like John Inman. Les had been made works manager as a reward for sorting out the new robot welding production line for the Cargo cab when the alleged experts failed, Les was there one day when we were all running late but as a consolation prize saw Concorde taking off, Les said ” that’s one in the eye for the Yanks “. Bob showed us his wallet one day, an inch thick but no money in it just receipts, he also showed us a payslip £120pw gross, and told how he was also working a part time cleaning job, but he was a great guy delayed going for his brew to get us away ASAP when practical. Harold and I were also on good terms with the general manager Peter who often drove up in his latest top of the range Granada, the upcoming Yuppy under-managers were nasty pieces of work though.

We also delivered Transit wings for export to Ghenk in Belgium via Dagenham Storage, but Ford forced all their independent suppliers to use Archbold Distribution, so we lost the jobs even though we were doing it cheaper. Archbold used IVECO tractor units with owner drivers on finance, a bit like the current UBER business plan likely to put Black Cabs out of business, Ford sold its EU truck division to IVECO and Langley is now closed. More recently the EU gave an £80m grant to Ford to relocate Transit production to Turkey, closing both Southampton and Ghenk !

We got replacement work delivering cheap low quality pet food for Knacker Davis at Blackburn, but it was often 2 Hand Ball ” and therefore no good for my back so on a day off I went back to my original employer and did a day on their artic tippers. I was quite a useful commodity by then as I could rope and sheet as well, plus do fitting work and act as Test Pilot for any new vehicles they acquired. The driving pay rate was £100 basic or 17.5% of what the wagon made 32 gross 21 tonne payload or 16% 38 tonne 25 tonne payload. I made the fatal mistake of comparing P60s with a couple of other drivers to find that I was making more money than them for less hours, and ended up with a heavier trailer I could do animal feed with. 1987 was a bad summer and one day in August it was 10C, pissing down and blowing a force 10 gale so I decided to realise my childhood ambition and go to Australia for our winter just to get some sun.

I set out in November and my employer was OK about it, never had a written employment contract anyway and I was informed that my old friend from Accy tech had left a well paid job as a stacker truck driver at Whitbread Blackburn when they insisted that he signed a work contract the unions had agreed to. I traveled Aussie by rail staying in cheap hotels or sleeping on the train sat up or in Queensland the dirt cheap sleepers, explored Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and Brisbane. I also went up to Cairns, stopping a week at Townsville and snorkeling on the reef, inland to Mt Isa, Rockhampton to Winton, also did the Ghan up to Alice Springs, the line to Darwin was not built then. Whist is Sydney I booked a two week trip to see relatives in NZ at a bucket shop in the city centre, flew out Air NZ back Quantas morning business flight with a superb view of the Opera House and harbour bridge, an altogether unrepeatable life experience plus it probably cost me less than staying at home

On my return to the UK in April 1988 British life seemed like a complete rip-off as I had become accustomed to paying 40p ( at then exchange rate ) for a 375ml can of Coke whereas in London it was 50p for a 325ml can, plus the price of a pint of Mild Ale had gone up 20p after Whitbread refurbished their pub and put the rent up. It wasn’t long before the first rate landlord threw in the towel, and perhaps today supermarket staff could be better paid but for putting in new tills and auto checkouts every five minutes. A few weeks ago before the alleged Living Wage went up to £7.20ph a lady friend and I went to a local pub famous for it quality and value for money and ordered a £6.50 prawn sandwich, which came on proper bakers baked brown bread with a ton of prawns. We attempted to repeat the experience last weekend but it was the type of cheap nasty brown roll you may find in ALDI with hardly any brown in it at all, plus a third less prawns, I did point out that such practice was likely to lose them custom especially when it had gone up to £7.20.

The Remain in the EU campaign claim that Brexit will cut investment in the UK but there is probably nothing more foolish is business than investment for investments sake, My granddad on my mums side was originally a skint butcher when he moved into the corner shop where I was brought up when he married my granny in 1914. I still have the second hand sofa plus other furniture they got as a wedding present, although the sofa was refurbished in the 1970s. World War 2 was good to him though as he made a fortune on the Black Market supplying meat to the village Mill Workers who were weaving the fabric for the De-Haviland Mosquito which probably explained why our village got bombed by the Nazis. One night the local copper called Bacon walked in on my granddad and Gt Uncle Herbert when they had just finished killing a pig, he said ” have you got a licence for that pig ” whereupon my granddad produced his driving licence and Bacon said ” that’s fine then “.

My Granddad was not a well man and used the money he made to buy ice cream manufacturing equipment and built a dairy in the back yard, its said that he got the recipe for said ice cream from an Italian prisoner of was he had working on his smallholding’. He died in 1954 long before I was born but my mum drove a Ford ice cream van they bought an stood on the village green at a well known tourist attraction until about 1970. We were still using the original 1947 open crank refrigeration engine and freezer when we sold out in 1985, the original counter fridge was still OK but failed when the new owner defrosted it, we used to hack excess ice out with a meat cleaver. When I was big enough to reach I helped making ice cream, in busy summer often not finishing until 1 am, a new bigger capacity boiler was purchased in 1954, which I believe is still in service with the current owners of the business.

When I was still at primary school my late Gt Auntie Eadie ( who was in the RAF Catering Corps serving Bomber Crews in WW2 and never married ) gave me a copy of The Lighted Flame A History of ASLEF written by their retiring general secretary in 1950. Its the only remotely political book that I have ever read apart from snippets in Master Builders of Steam and Great Northern Railway Chief mechanical Engineer H A Ivatt fought general management hard for fair working conditions. In The Lighted Flame it describes how the Miners, the Government and the Mine Owners had reached a deal to end the Coal Strike the evening before, thus averting the 1926 General Strike. However, The Daily Mail ( the non publication of which was to signal the start of the said strike ) engineered a totally unrelated lightning strike by print workers over the publication of an article they knew to be not true. The rest is history but today’s Union Barons seem more interested in their fat cat pensions, whilst EU Employment Legislation stops innovative small business growing to compete with the big guys. Most small business dare not take new workers on as if you find out they are no good its almost impossible to get rid of and replace them thus promoting a false market for employment agencies and lower wages for the workers.

All the current Union Barons still support EU Green Policy and the 2008 Climate Change Act to the hilt, despite the fact that in 2011 the main UK aluminium smelting plant at Blythe in Northumberland closed due to Green Taxes to subsidise renewable energy and the resultant high energy costs. It probably took the aluminium oxide processing plant at Burnt Island in Fife down with it, which may explain why the SNP took Gordon Brown’s former seat from Labour at the 2015 general election. Its not as if Blythe was short of trade, I remember seeing a YouTube Video about how a preserved English Electric Deltic had been brought in to cope with the extra East Coast Main Line oxide trains. I am informed that Jaguar now get all their aluminium from Saudi Arabia, no doubt produced using electricity generated by GAS, by chance the other week I met a ships engineer on a gas super-tanker which had been plying to and from Yemen. He said that since the bombing they had switched to the UAE, who by pure coincidence are in coalition with the Saudis as caught using British made Cluster Bombs.

Its clear that the Ineos Grangemouth workers were sold out by Len Mc Cluskey when Unite engineered a strike over changes to working conditions, then Alex Salmond ( as always the political opportunist ) stepped in with the promise of a Scottish Government grant for new port facilities to import US Shale Gas. The result was worse wages & conditions that originally proposed for the workers, plus loss of income perhaps forcing some once solvent into debt to pay a private tax to the banks. EU Employment Legislation was a useless as the tits on a Boar here as well, and as for our national security, it was our V-Bombers, Polaris and now our Trident submarines which have kept the peace in Europe since WW2, yet the SNP and many in the Labour Party who support Remain want to scrap it ?

Rules are for the observance of fools, and the guidance of wise men !

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