Film: 9203

Industry + Work | 1970 | Sound | Colour


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A lighthearted treatment, but with serious intent, of the great Industrial Relations problems of the 1970's.

Scenes of 1970's picketing with Arthur Scargill and Saltley depot, Birmingham. Some black and white film of 1930's industrial conditions in c. 1936 Jarrow Crusade. Traditional clapper board is held by Sylvester McCoy (R.P.) saying: 'Industrial relations take 1'. Camera withdraws to show him standing by a typical brazier on a picket line in 1970's. A placard says: 'McCoy Lives, But Only Just'. From behind he picks up another placard saying: 'More Pay for McCoy'. He starts waving it around and loudly singing 'I shall overcome' (sic.). He becomes more strident and out of tune (very funny). He sits down and stirs the brazier with the pole attached to the placard. He speaks to camera about 'strikes, punch-ups, confrontations'. He opens a Daily Express headline: 'Jim: I'll Fight the Lot'. Immediately the camera shows James Callaghan (then Prime Minister) walking past crowds, then a group of pickets, a headline about Council worker's 'new onslaught on 10% pay guideline'. Council workers marching with a banner through the City of London. The song 'You Don't Get Me, I'm a Part of the Union' is heard louder and louder as these shots pass. A mass meeting is addressed by Clive Jenkins (very well known leader of the ASTMS white collar union at the time). The meeting applauds him. Another headline: 'Car Wage Snub' about British Leyland. More pickets - one talks to a delivery driver in a truck - followed by a headline: 'Victory at Coke Plant' - a reference to the victory by pickets over delivery deliverers at Saltley, Birmingham, in 1972. Scenes of pickets banging a delivery lorry as police try to restrain them. A sign says: 'Notice NUN [National Union of Mineworkers] Pickets Fighting for a Living Wage'. Arthur Scargill (R.P.), the leader of the Saltley blockade, speaks to camera lauding the solidarity of Birmingham workers. Sequence ends with a shot of a huge crowd of trade unionists.

Sylvester McCoy Coy is still sitting by the brazier holding the placard. Suddenly he leaps up waving to be 'aggressive' and strides in an office behind singing 'I Shall Overcome' again. Inside he marches purposefully down a corridor still singing maniacally and out of tune, until he reaches a door marked 'Personnel Office'. His confidence is fast evaporating but he knocks firmly. Inside he sits down meekly and discuss his problems submissively with a bland and nonchalant Personnel Officer who trots out a series of economic clichés about hard times, low investment and profits etc. 'No money available for McCoy', who leaves quietly and politely. McCoy comes out of the office vacantly and resumes his seat by the brazier. He decides he has been 'manipulated and needs the strength of the Union'.

In a shopping precinct he interviews a man of about 40 about his Union membership. The interviewer says the union gives help, especially in legal maters. Another interviewee in an anorak and checked cap says the unions have grown too powerful, taking over the government etc. A dark-haired woman in her 30's applaud her union for trying to get her a rise.

McCoy produces a 'Shop Steward' armband and puts it on. Fizzing with gest sets off for the office again. Inside he strides purposefully back to the Personnel Officer's room. He knocks and walks straight in and launches into a demand for more money - or he will strike! The P.O. agrees - McCoy's on strike! McCoy leaves, the wind visibly taken out of his sails. Back at his brazier McCoy looks disconsolate after all, he is on strike with no money. He decides to seek union advice.

A sign of two hands clasping with the emblem 'Unity is Strength' beneath. The camera withdraws and show this is an the frontal of a National Union of General and Municipal Workers building. McCoy enters the plate grey front door. He walks into a modern functional office. A middle-aged man in a brown suit and Union tie follows. They shake hands. The Union man tells McCoy a little about the history of the Trade Union. He opens a book and shows pictures of exploited, miserable Victorian workers. Then he shows a classic picture of an unemployed, dejected man on a street corner in the 1930's. This then merges into a black and white cinematic sequence of 1930's conditions unfolding to the music of 'Tannenbaum' or 'The People's Flag': Workers queuing at a soup kitchen beneath a sign '500 Starving Men Fed Daily; workers in cloth caps handing food coupons to a tradesman; poor families collecting coal in bags from a railway siding; ragged children; a man's open air meeting; the Jarrow Marchers bearing banners saying 'Jarrow Crusade' along country roads; Jarrow marchers arriving in London and filing through traffic (October or November 1936). The book now closes and McCoy and the contemporary Trade Unionist resume their conversation, discussing higher standards of living in the 1970's compared with the past.. He suggests that McCoy should visit a local factory to discover contemporary Industrial Relations in practise.

McCoy enters the yard of a small factory premises on a very cold snowy day. He goes inside and a small engineering works is revealed. He talks to a bespectacled manager about the need for competitive business; then to a shop-floor convenor, who tells McCoy that everything is always sorted out in workshop councils and other committees by agreement. (So that's all nice and dandy then!). This includes unfair treatment. Ah, time for compromise, says McCoy. McCoy in bank with the Personnel Officer. They negotiate better terms for McCoy who promises never to sing again (joke!). Outside again McCoy tips sand into the brazier to extinguish it. He talks about the purpose of I.R. in reducing income differentials and inequalities by compromise. The Personnel Officer appear from behind. He tells McCoy to work on Sundays 'in view of your recent increase'. McCoy storms off threatening to see his union organiser.

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