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Architect or Bee?

Architect or Bee? by Mike Cooley

Workers at Lucas Industries, Shaftmoor Lane branch, Birmingham, 1970. Photograph: /Lucas Memories website

Workers at Lucas Industries, Shaftmoor Lane branch, Birmingham, 1970. Photograph: /Lucas Memories website

Events - Talks

Architect or Bee?

A discussion about the Lucas Aerospace Workers’ Plan

14 Apr 2016

An evening of discussion about Lucas Aerospace workers’ plan in the 1970s where they combined to diversify manufacture and enhance working lives.

In January 1976 workers at Lucas Aerospace published an Alternative Plan for the future of their corporation. It was a novel response to management announcements that thousands of manufacturing jobs were to be cut in the face of industrial restructuring, international competition, and technological change. Instead of redundancy, workers argued their right to socially useful production.

Around half of Lucas’ output supplied military contracts. Since this depended upon public funds, as did many of the firm’s civilian products, workers argued state support be better put to developing more socially useful products.

In drawing up their Plan, shop stewards at Lucas turned initially to researchers at institutes throughout the UK. They received three replies. Undeterred, they consulted their own members. Over the course of a year they built up their Plan on the basis of the knowledge, skills, experience, and needs of workers and the communities in which they lived. The results included designs for over 150 alternative products. The Plan included market analyses and economic argument; proposed employee training that enhanced and broadened skills; and suggested re-organising work into less hierarchical teams that bridged divisions between tacit knowledge on the shop floor and theoretical engineering knowledge in design shops.

 
This event is organised with the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation.

The Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation was launched in 1963 after twelve months of preparation. It was established in order to carry forward Russell's work for peace, human rights and social justice. This had been assisted by a small secretariat in earlier years, but its rapid growth and increasing cost made the burden larger than could be carried by one person, however distinguished. Preoccupied with the danger of nuclear war, Russell had always been deeply concerned with the defence of civil rights, and the institutionalisation of his work made it possible to create a number of desks which could specialise on different areas or particular problems.

Phil Asquith was a Chartered Engineer, a senior rep of TASS and Chairman Of The Burnley Joint Shop Stewards' Committee. He was closely involved in the Lucas Plan in all of its stages and has spoken on the Plan and Arms    Conversion at countless meetings and conference in the UK the USA Europe and Scandinavia. After leaving Lucas Phil worked on the development of socially useful products with Sheffield City Council. After the remainder of his career in economic development Phil retired from his post of Director of Inward Investment at East Midlands Development Agency in 2003. 

Tony Simpson has worked at the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation since 1980. He edits The Spokesman, which is the quarterly journal of the Foundation. This journal publishes in many areas including politics, peace and disarmament, history, drama and philosophy.

 

6.30pm – 8.30pm

Free, booking required.

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Added Friday, 01 April, 2016
Simon Starling's ingenuity reflects something of what was happening amongst the workers at Lucas Aerospace in the 1970s when they designed hundreds of alternative products to the military and other ones which were being 'rationalised' by the company.
Tony Simpson

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