Rolls Royce Disputes


Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 00.01.11The women workers at Scotland’s Rolls-Royce factories went on strike in 1955, a dispute arising for higher wages.

The war had brought thousands of women into the country’s factories and afterwards many remained on the workforce, and became involved in the trade union movement.

The biggest Rolls-Royce dispute that year involved all the workers at the company’s Hillington, East Kilbride and Blantyre factories (who walked out over one worker who was working too hard!)

I know that sounds laughable, but when you unpick the issue it turns out that workers were being laid off or given more menial jobs as there was not enough work to go round. In order to keep more people in jobs it was agreed by the workforce not to overdo the overtime, but one person earned more than their fair share of overtime bonuses, leading to the dispute.

Eventually after two months, with Christmas approaching, the workers voted to go back, the issue unresolved, with the union accusing the then Tory Government of of attacking hard-won union practices and agreements.

On social media:

Bill Duncan I started my apprenticeship with RR in 1955. The only dispute I recall was the so called ” Bonus Joe ” affair where a Blantyre RR worker in the Polishing Shop was earning bonus far in excess than that of his fellow workers by not limiting his output to a level agreed with his work mates.


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  1. Rolls Royce Blantyre strike was 1976, sorry for the typo.

  2. I was Rolls Royce employee for 16 years including my apprenticeship, the last three of these as a Production Engineer at the Blantyre factory, and I was involved in the dispute.
    As I remember, the management indicated in the spring of 1977 that they planned to close the plant and move the work to Hillington. The AEU led the dispute negotiations and finally recorded a failure to agree in June. Many high level union officials attended the works mass meetings, finishing off with Gavin Laird urging us to take the decision and the union was behind us all the way. Strike levies would be organised nationally and we would be supported. The final meeting took the decision to strike and occupy the factory on a 24 hour basis, and it was announced as unanimous, which it was not as I put my hand up “against”.
    The strike stared I think late June with the summer holidays looming. The occupation began and we were paid strike money for attending the sit in. I was married with a young son and we decided to carry on with our summer holiday in the belief it would soon be ended. After our holiday it dragged on and on, with a roster for picket duty and strike pay, until one week I was told not to come in any more. Apparently I lived too far away, just outside Kilmarnock, and my travel expenses were too much. For the next thee to four months I pottered about farms and building sites looking for casual work, which was very scarce. I received nothing from social security and just ran up debt. Eventually, in early December we were called to another mass meeting where the union asked us to go back to work and they would negotiate redundancy terms.
    During the strike no one involved could leave Rolls Royce as the unions had placed an embargo on the payroll processing P45’s for Blantyre employees. I had a job to go to but was unable to start because I had no paper work to take with me. I left Rolls Royce as soon as I could receive my redundancy money, with a fantastic training, some great memories and unfortunately a sour taste in my mouth, and started in Hoover at Cambuslang.

  3. Anyone remember, or have information, on the closure of the RR Blantyre plant? I think this might have been in 1976 and think there might have been an occupation.

    1. Hi Alan – Here are my notes on Rolls Royce, but I need to revisit these and write up in more detail. All remains to be fact checked.

      The Blantyre Rolls Royce plant opened in 1947 at the newly built Blantyre Industrial Estate. On 11th May 1951, an extension was designed for the factory, designed by Architect Mr. James Dick Horace, of Hamilton. During the 3rd quarter of the 20th Century, many young men in Blantyre sought opportunity to work at the Rolls Royce factory. They first had to meet Rolls Royce requirements by passing their Entrance Exam by duly reporting to Burnbank School of Engineering to start a full time Pre-Apprentice training program prior to in plant training in the East Kilbride Plan. This was certainly the case in the 1950s. At Burnbank RR apprentices were considered the elite by virtue of the status the company had within ‘Engineering’ but it often led to conflict with apprentices from other local companies and they dubbed the Rolls Royce workers with the collective nickname “Snowdrops” on account of the white overalls they had to wear. The white overalls were fine for the men but some were horrified when they found out that the Training Department had chosen ‘pink overalls’ for the initial in plant training. For the next four years for many men it was the Chieftain bus up to Nerston, East Kilbride, over the General’s Bridge via Stoneymeadow to the plant in East Kilbride. Some men were transferred eventually to the High Blantyre Plant at Blantyre Industrial Estate, handy for those who were in walking distance of the Plant. By 1969, the Blantyre Plant employed 800 people, and concerns were raised that year about the proposed transfer for 300 light alloy-machining jobs to Hillington. The Blantyre Plant closed in 1977 and was then converted to house five separate industries; Newhouse Engineering, Gammas Electric, Hayhill Joinery Machine Tool Engineering and CRS Haulage.

      1. Thanks for such a quick reply … any knowledge of a sit-in/occupation against the closure in 1977?

        1. Hi Alan – frustratingly, i’ve looked at 1978 and 1979 Blantyre history and not 1977 in any detail yet. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a sit in or demonstration. There were mass protests in 55 and 67 when some jobs were threatened. I’d been looking at 78 and 79 as i thought it would give me an insight on Glasgow Road redevelopment, but its clear i need to look at 1977 in detail too, so hopefully when i do that, it will uncover the full story of Rolls Royce demise.

          1. Many thanks … if I find any material on it I’ll pass it on

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