A History of Mather & Platt Ltd.
CHAPTER 7 - Workshop RelationsLink to full frames site if you have arrived on this single page.
The Welfare of the Worker

In his last address to the shareholders as Chairman of the Company, Sir William Mather expressed, the hope that “our Company will maintain a high place among the pioneer employers, who feel it to be their paramount duty to provide for the training and education of their young workers and the general welfare of their adult employees.”(1) By that time the welfare policy of the firm was securely established, but just as production techniques had changed between 1851 and 1917, so too had ideas of welfare.

Sir William himself saw clearly that welfare had to be related to the problems of a large concern working in a democratic age. The task sixty years before had been that of taking paternalist responsibility for workers in a small one-man business, operating in an age when many employers were content to believe in laissez-faire. Between 1851 and 1917 the three elements in the determination of working class welfare - the employers, the trade unions and the state - had all changed the character of their organisation, their functions and the objectives they set themselves.

The very word “welfare” itself was beginning to take on a new meaning. The story of Mather & Platt Ltd. fits into a wider national setting, which has still been incompletely sketched, by historians, and which indeed can only be sketched adequately when the histories of many different firms have been written.

William Mather's early days as an apprentice had taught him the dignity of work. They also made him seek the sympathy and friendship of working men. Before that Colin Mather had taken a rougher responsibility for his men and must have known most of them by their Christian names, but William went further. He tried to identify more closely the workers at Salford with the firm itself and the families that managed it. In 1877, for instance, the employees were taken to Belle Vue to celebrate the birth of his first son, Ernest. They and their wives were taken direct from the shop to the gardens and were given the responsibility of decorating the large tearoom. In January 1880, each employee received a card wishing him a happy New Year and enclosing a double week's wages as a reward for getting out machinery for a large order for Russia before the Russian tariff came into operation. “There never was such a ringing of the Old Year out as we had that year", reminisced one of the old employees. We had steel bars hung all over the shop, and the anvils had wood put under them to sound better, and boiler plates were sent down from the Boiler yard. Mr. Mather and his wife, Mr. J. Platt and his wife and their friends all came to hear the Old Year out and New Year in. We banged away with a will and they all enjoyed it.”(2)

(1) Proceedings at the Nineteenth Annual General Meeting February 1917.

(2) Our Journal, April 1925, Fifty Years with Mather and Platt. This gives the reminiscences of Mr. Peter Bramah and Mr. Leatherbarrow.

That scene so well described by these who took part in the rejoicing enables us to recapture the intimate atmosphere of the old Salford Iron Works. It had not been long since Colin Mather had driven down to the works each morning in his brougham. It is said that if on his way he passed his two sons he did not so much as look at them. They were apprentices and had to be treated, on the way to work and at work, as if they were in no way connected with him.

Mather & Platt was a family business, administered with as much care as if there had been closer ties than those of economic interest. The apprentices, for instance, had to go for one hour a week in the firm’s time to the Salford Baths to wash and to learn to swim. The lodge man gave each lad his ticket and a man was sent with the boys to see that they did not get drowned.  At the works themselves two early engines which provided power for the plant were named after William Mather’s two daughters, Florence and Grace.

Paternalism was only the beginning of a welfare policy: it fitted into a Society where the state took no interest in welfare, where the trade unions lacked organised bargaining power, and where some employers were content to treat their employees as mere “hands”. It was the special greatness of Sir William that he saw that paternalism was not enough in a changing age. As Bishop Welden said at his funeral, “in the conduct of his business he was a pioneer of reform. He was one of those wise men, who foresaw that the relations of capital and labour could not remain in a democratic age as they had existed in the past”. Three of his ventures before 1914 stand out — the provision of canteen services; the move to shorter working hours in 1893; and the inauguration of a Workpeople’s Holiday Fund in 1910. If those ventures stand out, it is not because they were special or unusual, but because they were vivid examples of a general policy, put into effect constantly and without question by the firm. One present employee of the firm still remembers clearly a speech William Mather made during the Engineers’ dispute of 1897, which began “Fellow workers and labourers". It was the attitude that these words expressed which animated his practical ventures.

1. Canteen Services

Having taken steps in 1873 to forward the mental training of their workers, Mather & Platt turned in 1878 to problems of’ physical welfare. Canteen facilities were not in great demand at that time, for most of the employees lived near the Salford Iron Works and went home for dinner. In 1878, however, part of tile Queen Street Institute premises were placed at the disposal of those employees; for warming up food brought by those workers who were not able to got home for the midday meal.

Little more could be done or indeed was necessary to develop satisfactory canteen services at Salford, where space was limited, but big changes were possible at Park Works. In 1912, when most of the departments had moved to Newton Heath and many employees had considerable distances to travel between home and work, a works dining room designed to seat 1,400 men and women was opened and equipped to serve regular hot meals each day. A separate dining room for staff employees was added in 1917 and one for girl employees in 1936.

For those employees who remained at the Salford Iron Works, a hot meal service from the central kitchens at Park Works was organised in 1924, and food was sent in bulk four miles each day to the Queen Street Institute in heat retaining containers. The service was so popular at Salford Iron Works that men employed at the Boiler Yard soon demanded it.

By comparison with the early workshops at Salford Iron Works, general conditions of cleanliness at Park Works were greatly improved. A cloakroom was installed next to the canteen, with washing facilities and individual towels, so that every man could wash in warm water and have the sole use of a clean towel before taking his meal or going home after work. A locker room was also provided where a man could leave his outdoor clothes before going into the shops.

A sub-committee of the Works Committee set up during the First World War subsequently administered the dining rooms, kitchen and laundry. The charge for meals was expected to cover the cost of provisions, the labour concerned in the preparation of food and the replacement of breakage's while the cost of rent, light and heat was borne by the Company.

2. The Forty-eight Hour Week

In the middle years of the nineteenth century life as lived by the mass of Manchester’s workpeople was grim and hard. The walls of economic necessity were as high as the walls of’ the workshops themselves. Individual men rose from the mass to proclaim the values of self-help, character and duty, but for those who did not rise there was often little in life save dependence upon the machine. The hours of’ work were reduced, in large measure as a result of trade union pressure, from more than ten hours a day before 1831 to a 57 - 58 hour normal working week for Manchester engineers between 1850 and 1870. In 1871 and 1872 the nine hour working day was established, and in 1890 the Amalgamated Society of Engineers supported by other craft unions was pressing for legislative action to secure an eight hour working day “as an adjunct to the voluntary efforts of the working men and women of the United Kingdom”. (1) Although the agitation was carried on somewhat sporadically, in 1894 the Government agreed to introduce the 48-hour week in Government Factories and dockyards. Even the it was not until after the London engineering societies had taken the initiative in 1896 that there was a general demand for an eight-hour day. Serious consequences were to follow the pressing of the claim in 1897.

Long before that time William Mather had taken the initiative on his own without pressure of any kind being applied. In 1893, before the government had decided to introduce the shorter working week in their engineering establishments he took a characteristically bold step. He had come to the conclusion that the long working week of 53 hours did not allow the workers that time for leisure and recreation, which he held necessary to their well being. Furthermore, and this appeared to him to be decisive - it seemed likely that shorter working hours would not only benefit the workers but also, by abolishing fatigue, would involve no loss of output.

(1) L.S.E., Monthly report, November 1890.

Up to that time the working day had begun at 6.a.m. and with half an hour’s break from 8.a.m. to 8.30a.m. for breakfast and an hour's break from 12.30 to l.30 p.m. for dinner had continued until 5.30p.m. (1) Some industrialists questioned the value of the hours between 6.0a.m. and 8.0a.m. and doubted whether they were economically as well as socially desirable. In 1893 William Mather told the trade unions that he would like to try a year’s experimental working of a 48-hour week. This was a pioneer step, supported by only a handful of other employers who included Hadfields the Steelmakers of Sheffield, the Thames Iron Works, London and the Scotia Engine Works, Sunderland, owned by William Allan M.P. The experiment by Mather & Platt, was, however, deemed to be successful and the 48-hour week became a permanent feature of employment at Salford Iron Works. Yet although it was found, as had been assumed, that output was increased, few employers were prepared at that time to recognise the advantages of shorter working hours. For a long time indeed the firm, of Mather & Platt was boycotted by employers organisations, the most important of which, the Employers’ Federation of Engineering Associations, was set up in 1896. Even John Morley, with whom William Mather was corresponding, was sceptical about the effects of the scheme on the payment of overtime and on the position of other industries more subject to foreign competition. (2)

The shrewd judgement behind Mather & Platt s introduction of the 48-hour week was revealed four years later during the Engineers’ Dispute of 1897. It was an extremely bitter dispute, with the employers banded together in newly organised employers’ associations, attempting to make the most of reviving trade, and the workers, rallied by an Eight hour Committee, seeking to cling to existing industrial practices and to shorten the length of the working day throughout the whole of the industry. During the struggle, which was fully reported in the press at the time William Mather tried hard to bring both sides together. He explained that he could be heard by both sides “at least with toleration” because he was in a “neutral position. “I have never been a member of any employers federation, nor have I had a difference with our workpeople.” It was essential to end the dispute, because it was undermining Britain’s competitive position as an engineering country. “Our existence as a great engineering industry is, through this deplorable and truly fratricidal war, in imminent danger of collapse and ruin, from which it would take years to recover.

(1) On Mondays work began at Mather & Platt at 8.30 and on Saturday work stopped at 12. There still was a traditional Holiday for apprentices on Shrove Tuesday.

(2) John Morley to William Mather. 1st September 1892.

The consequences of a long-continued, struggle, ending at last only through the exhaustion and not the submission of either side, would be infinitely more serious than those which would fellow any other trade dispute in this country. For instance, a protracted stoppage from like causes in the coal, iron or cotton trades though for the time calamitous would not mean the extinction of those industries .... but our machine-making engineering and shop-building productions can be replaced by those of America, Germany, France, Italy, Switzerland and even Russia with great rapidity.” (1)

Sir William proposed that the Amalgamated Society of Engineers and the Employers’ Federation should meet and discuss the question of coming to a mutual understanding, based on the acceptance of a 48 hour week and an agreement about the use of machine tools. He thought that such a compromise would ensure the safeguarding of the joint interests of employers and workers. The Manchester Guardian took up the point in an editorial: - “could the British engineering industry be what it is without the organising and directory power of the British employer, or without the readiness and energy which he can command in his workmen"? (2)

William Mather invited Colonel Dyer, a managing director of Armstrong Whitworth and president of the Employers’ Federation to visit him at his home and made the proposal that the 48 hour week should be granted provided that the unions ceased “interfering with the functions of’ management and restricted output”. The proposal was rejected by the Federation, and the dispute went on until the funds of the Union were exhausted. This was exactly what William Mather had tried to avoid. “A complete defeat of the Employers Federation in the present struggle would not give the workmen any permanent advantage. Their victory would only be the next worst thing to utter defeat. On the other hand were the Amalgamated Society of Engineers defeated and, in consequence were it to resort to the legislature to enforce a 48 hour week, no Act of Parliament could be granted by the wit of man to meet the complex conditions of’ the engineering industry.”

At this stage Mather turned to the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, and secured their co-operation in the summoning of a conference which brought the dispute to an end. He accomplished what Ritchie, the President of the Board of Trade, had thought impossible, and although the Union at the conference was compelled to withdraw its demand for an eight-hour day, it was by no means completely defeated. Between 1898 and 1902 all the engineering unions were able to replenish their funds, and persuade the employers to accept “a system of collective bargaining even more systematic and national than before prevailed.”(3) Although many engineering firms were still working to a 54 or 54 hour week when war broke out in 1914. (4)

(1)   William Mather to the Manchester Guardian, 15 September 1897. This letter is so important that it is printed in full in the Appendix.

(2)      Manchester Guardian, 16th September 1897.

(3)       S. and B. Webb, history of Trade Unionism. (1902 edn.), p.xix.

(4)      J.H, Chapman ,An Economic History of Modern Britain (1938), p.477

Mather & Platt emerged unscathed from the dispute. Work continued throughout the whole of the tension period. Indeed, during the trouble, some valuable recruits were added to the staff of the firm including one popular foreman, Jack Leigh, a man who had previously worked at Whitworths’, and who stayed with Mather & Platt Ltd. until 1926. His first job was to turn the shafting from the new Klondyke building at the Salford Iron Works, which the firm was beginning to build while ‘the general dispute was still in progress. (1)

Throughout and after the dispute Mather & Platt remained on good terms with the trade unions. Indeed a clause in Mather’s suggested settlement of the 1897 dispute was that “on a settlement being arrived at, the Employers Federation shall undertake to do nothing for the purpose of impairing the trade union.” There were in the Salford workshops representatives of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, the Steam Engine Makers, the United Pattern Makers Association and the Foundrymen’s Union, and industrial relations were smooth and unruffled. William Mather preferred a trade unionist to a non-trade unionist as a workman because be knew the sort of person with whom he was dealing, and he was able to instil a sense of mutual responsibility. It was natural that he was able to remain on good terms with the local and national representatives of’ the Trade Unions for the whole of his business career.

The payment of wages by the firm followed the standard district rates, systemised from 1878 onwards by the District Committees of the Union. Most wages were time-rates until the 1880’s and 1890's. In 1886 only 5% of the men and youth employed in the engineering and boilermaking industries were paid on a piecework system. By 1914, some 46% of the fitters, 37% of the turners and nearly 50% of the machinemen in Federated shops were working under some system of payment by results. (2) Mather & Platt introduced piecework in most sections of the firm before 1890: a booking-in system was adopted, and every hour worked was booked against the appropriate job number. A piece of whitewashed board was used, with lines and figures ruled in black lead. This was a very simple procedure, especially when compared with the current practice of giving a man a clock card for every job done and of operating a central punch card system to tabulate results by mechanical means. Although the introduction of piecework and of premium bonus systems led to industrial disputes in some firms, it created no serious difficulties in either the Salford Iron Works or the new shops at Park Works. During the early years following the First World War, hours of work were reduced and higher wages were secured by agreements between unions and employers.

(1)             Our Journal, April 1526.

(2)            Report of an Enquiry by the Board of Trade into Earnings and Hours, 1906, Cd. 5814 (1911), J.W.F. Rowe, Wages in Theory and Practice (1928), Appendix 11.

There was a marked freedom from disputes during the inter-war years, when the piece-rate system was more generally applied. The 48-hour week gave way to the 47-hour week and for the first time in September 1920 the Overtime and Night Shift Agreement fixed overtime rates for the whole country. Shortly after the end of the Second World War a five-day working week of 44 hours was generally adopted throughout the engineering industry.

3. The Holiday Fund

Although Sir William Mather recognised the place of trade unions in modern industry and was anxious to co-operate with them, he saw that there was still a place for individualist action by an enlightened employer. He was anxious that his eldest son, Ernest, who joined the firm in 1899, should follow in his footsteps and was delighted with the welcome given his son by the employees of the firm. At celebrations held at Belle Vue they presented Ernest with an illuminated address, offering him congratulations on his success at Cambridge, his coming of age and his association with the firm, and expressing the ”earnest hope and desire ... that you may carry into its management the broad views both with regard to business policy and to the dealings and relationships with the workmen that have always characterised your father, and made his name a household word”. (1) Unfortunately, Ernest Mather died as the result of an accident while riding shortly after becoming a director of the company and in 1910 Sir William endowed a Workpeople's Holiday Fund in his memory.

Sir William hoped that grants from this fund would make real holidays possible for the workpeople of the Company. In a letter to Mr.L.B.Mather, posted on the notice boards in the Salford and Park Works, he wrote that he had been considering for some time how; he could best show his “continued interest in the welfare of our workpeople. For seventeen years we have given our workpeople the benefit of shortened hours of labour, establishing the forty-eight hour week. Recently we have established an annual holiday of a week, when the works are closed, and are making arrangements for assisting certain of the unskilled workmen and their families to enjoy this holiday. It has occurred to me that the annual holiday may be more thoroughly enjoyed, as a means of healthy recreation out of town, if a Fund existed, the income of which could be distributed amongst the workpeople at both Salford and Park Works, to help them to meet the expenses, in so far as the income of the Fund will permit."(2)

Sir William inaugurated this fund, which was designed to make it easier for "wife and family to share in a husband’s recreation during the summer holiday”, by placing 10,000 one pound fully paid ordinary shares of the Company in trust, over which Mr.L.B.Mather and two co-trustees, Alfred Willett and Edwin Buckly, exercised control. The setting up of this Fund, just at a time when working class holidays by the sea were beginning to be popular, was an enlightened and generous gesture, which long anticipated statutory holidays with pay.

(1)   The employees of Mather and Platt to William Ernest Mather.

(2)   Sir William Mather to Mr L E Mather, 1 March, 1910.

The holiday Fund grew. In 1920 a further 7,500 shares were added to it, providing at that time an annual distribution to workers of nearly 3,000. When, after 1937 the industry had adopted the policy of normally granting a full week’s pay to employees about to take their holidays, the Ernest Mather Fund used to make special payments which varied with length of service to the firm. The distribution was, and still is, regulated by the Trustees (1) after discussion with the Works Committee. In 1949 the Directors decided to make an annual payment to the Fund out of profits and in the following year made a 50% bonus issue to the Fund while in 1951 a special Jubilee grant was paid.

4. The Works Committee

One of’ the most important changes in the approach to industrial relations, distinguishing the twentieth from the nineteenth century, has been the growth of works committees consisting of representatives of both labour and management.

Although before 1914 there were in existence in some firms works committees of various types - recreative, social and welfare committees; profit-sharing or co-partnership committees; or industrial committees (1) -it was the First World War which gave an impetus to their formation, and it was then that Mather & Platt Ltd. had its first general works council.

In March 1917 the interim report of the Whitley Committee on the Relations between Employers and Employed recommended the organisation of general industrial councils and of works committees at shop level, and in a further supplementary report in October 1917 the proposal was elaborated. “We regard the successful development and utilisation of Works Committees in any business”, the signatories stated, “as of equal importance with its commercial and scientific efficiency, and we think that in every case one of the partners or directors or some other responsible representative of the management would be well advised to devote a substantial part of his time and thought to the good working and development of such a committee". (2)

Sir William Mather welcomed these proposals but believed that initiation should come from the firms themselves. “I would begin with the shops”, he wrote in a letter to his son, “and work back to general council; the great thing is to promote co-operation in individual shops (I mean separate firms) to raise the status of employees from servants to patrons of a sort”. (3) He quickly put his ideas into practice and in the same month that the Whitley Committee published its report a Works Committee was set up by Mather & Platt Ltd.

(1)         See G.D.K. Cole, Workshop Organisation (1923).

(2) Ministry of Reconstruction, sub-committee on Relations between Employers and Employed, Interim,Report, Cd. 8606 (11 March 1917): Supplementary Report on Works Committees Cd. 9001 (October 1917). See further Ministry of Labour, Works Committees, Report on an Inquiry, Industrial Reports, No.2. (1918),

(3)         An undated letter from Sir William to Mr.L.E.Mather

The idea was not a new one, for already there had been a Shop stewards’ Committee in existence for some time. (1) The trade union stewards, whose workshop position was enhanced by the restrictions on general trade union activities, appointed from their own number a convenor, who had power to call meeting’s of all the stewards in the shop. By contrast with such a committee, which represented the interests of labour only, the Works Committee of Mather & Platt Ltd was an organisation designed to increase the participation of workers in welfare and workshop activities, where both management and labour could exert responsible initiative. The first Chairmen of the Park Works Committee was E.W.Buckley, the Works Manager, who was on excellent terms with the trade unions and who had always tried to treat workmen as “partners and friends”. (2)

The other members included two managers, the Welfare Officer, three foremen, and two charge hands on the management side, and four shop stewards, two girl workers, one labourer and one other worker on the labour side. Subsequently voting for the labour places on the Committee was arranged by ballot in the shops, twelve representatives being chosen from the various bays, the smithy, the pattern room and the millwrights. (3) The management retained its eight members, the foreman being elected by their fellow foremen.

Much of the early work of The Committee was concerned, as was natural and desirable, with domestic topics of the moment, which are of little historical interest. As a result of these early discussions improvements were made in the dining room and lavatories; the payment of workers was switched to Friday night to give wives more time for shopping (4) and arrangements made by other firms for housing bicycles were investigated. (5) There were two occasions however when more permanently interesting topics were discussed. The first was at the opening meeting, when it was decided to inaugurate a Suggestions Scheme; the second was a general review of the atmosphere and conditions of the firm in January 1918.

The Suggestions Scheme was designed to give every employee the opportunity of bringing forward his ideas for the prevention of accidents, the better organisation of a section of’ the works and improvements in machinery design or operations.

(1)  L.E.Mather to Sir ‘William Mather, 9 June 1917.

(2)  Edwin Buckley to Sir William Mather, 7 August, 1916. “I thank you for the words that ‘you rely on my sympathy with the employees', because it has been my one claim to treat them as partners and friends, as you say. In fact, it is not infrequently that the men, when they have made a request, preface the remarks that they feel I am one of them, and not only their ‘boss’ “. Buckley went on to urge that the full co-operation of the trade unions should be sought in all schemes to secure good relations between capital and labour.

(3)      The ballot idea was mooted on the Works Committee as early as December 1917. Minutes of the First Works Committee.

(4)        First Report of the Works Committee, 1917.

(5)       Minutes, 22 October 1917.

The procedure as it was subsequently developed was for employees to write out suggestions, preferably upon printed forms which could be procured from the Secretary of the Company or from a box in the canteen. These forms which, on completion, were placed in a box carried, the name of the employee on a detachable counterfoil which was treated as secret by the secretary so that the members of the Suggestion Committee did not know the name of the man who had made the suggestion.

There was considerable discussion and division of opinion about both the procedure and the principle of the Suggestions Scheme, and during the first year the number of’ suggestions actually fell off, partly because of delay in answering them, partly because of a report that the names of men who had made suggestions were published. (1)

The Committee persisted in the project and stressed that “in large Works like these, there must be a very great amount of latent ability that still remains untapped”. It went on to hope that “there may flow through the channel of the Suggestions Scheme, not only good ideas for improvement, but a series of patentable inventions.”

The scheme eventually got under way and an average of about 100 suggestions annually were received during the next ten years. Many of the suggestions were valueless or impracticable, but some of’ them were acceptable and worth remuneration. The original Suggestions Committee consisted of the Director of Research, the Works Manager, a departmental head, a representative of the Works Office, and a representative of the workmen appointed by the Works Committee. The present Committee (1952) is on similar lines but a member of the Board (apart from Works Manager) and an additional representative chosen by the workmen have been added. From the point of view of the Company the sponsors believed that the value of the scheme lay “not only in the actual suggestions accepted, but in the alert interest in his work, which had undoubtedly been taken by every employee who offers a suggestion through the scheme.”(2)

Some thousands of useful suggestions have been submitted through the scheme, which continues to operate with considerable success. A review of the 'atmosphere and conditions of employment with Mather & Platt Ltd. in January 1918 was carried out informally by the Works Committee of the period when problems of absenteeism, rate-fixing and the movement of employees from the service of the company to other firms were discussed. In October 1917 official leaving certificates, which had restricted the movement of certain classes of munitions workers, were abolished by the Government and a number of men (in consequence) had either been discharged or had left on their own accord. The following figures for the fourteen weeks from 15 October 1917 to 22 January 1918 were studied by the Committee and proved that nothing was wrong with the morale of what had become a large wartime establishment.(3)

Discharged - 71 (5.7%)

Skilled - 30 - (2.4%)
Unskilled - 41 - (3.3%)

Left Voluntarily - 57 (4.6%)

Skilled - 35 - (2.8%)
Unskilled - 22 - (1.8%)

The ventilation of common problems in the Works Committee at that date was recognised as being a very useful device.

(1)      Minutes, 25 March, 1918

(2)      In the Interests of the Workers (1925)

(3) Minutes January 1918.

In 1919 a special sub-committee of the Works Committee concerned itself with a problem specifically concerned with production methods. It examined the question of shop tools, and presented a complete report dealing with cutting and radius tools templates, mandrills, drill stores, and the tool issue system. At the same time the whole Committee made a recommendation to the management advocating that more detail should be shown in working drawings. (1) Those extensions of the boundaries of interest of the Committee were followed by an important constitutional change in its position.

The York Agreement of May 1919 drawn up by certain skilled engineering trade unions and the employers federation recommended that “a Works Committee may be set up in each establishment, consisting of not more then seven representatives of the management and not more than seven shop stewards, who should be representative of the various classes of workpeople employed in the establishment”. Mather & Platt Ltd. were the first Company to put the York Agreement into operation. (1) The old Committee was dissolved at the end of 1919, and a new Committee came into being with shop steward representation. In order that the new Committee's activities should not be interrupted by frequent elections, and in order that the workers should have the opportunity of selecting candidates for membership, the management asked that a new election of shop stewards should be held. This was carried out; fifteen shop stewards being elected seven of who were chosen by their fellow stewards to be the workers’ representatives on the Works Committee. (2) In 1920 the problem of choosing shop stewards was simplified by the creation of the Amalgamated. Engineering Union, consisting of the old A.S.E., the Steam Engine Makers Society, the Amalgamated Society of General Toolmakers, the United Machine Workers’ Association and various other smaller unions. (3) The amalgamation movement, which had long been in the air, had at last produced effective results.

The change in the status of the Committee and its official recognition as part of a national framework enabled the members of the Committee to debate freely and frankly topics which committees of previous years had not been competent to discuss with authority. It is true that in the early months of 1919, before the change, the Committee was extending its range of interests, but from 1920 onwards it concerned itself with more controversial issues, including questions relating to employment and piece-rates. At the beginning of 1920 the Committee devoted considerable time to the question of output from engineering workshops and the possibility of increasing the ”man-hours” worked. The Committee was kept in touch with the condition of affairs regarding the employment, engagement and dismissal of employees, and with the working of the Piecework Bonus Scheme, seen in relation to alternative schemes operated in other factories.

(1)       Works Committee, Report of’ Proceedings during 1919.

(2)       Works Committee, Report of Proceedings during 1920.

(3)      The United Pattern Makers’ Association and the Electrical Trades Union did not join.

It also had one or two long discussions on possible ways of widening its own influence. “Various duties and responsibilities which could be undertaken by a Works Committee were discussed although it was generally decided that it was not possible, under present conditions, to go much further. (1)

The Works Committee soon established its position within the firm in relation both to management and to labour. Fortnightly meetings were held, followed the day afterwards by meetings of a committee of the foremen and by the Shop Stewards Committee to take any necessary action upon points raised by the Works Committee. (2) As the years have gone by, the machinery of consultation which either broke down or was never properly tried by some firms, has proved itself efficient and useful, and has been further developed since the Second World War to make bitter disputes between capital and labour unlikely. The existing chain of procedure for avoiding disputes would have surprised most early nineteenth century employers and workmen alike. (3) It has been sufficiently well contrived to eliminate almost all labour troubles in the firm.

5. Workers and the Firm

Despite its increasing size Park Works has still retained many of the qualities of a smaller establishment and the atmosphere is still one of partnership. Workshop personalities stand out and are well known throughout the firm; voluntary bodies representing all sections of the works fill in gaps in the various employees organisations and sponsor direct participation in schemes for social welfare; and shareholders have been ever-ready to support schemes for improving the well-being of the workers of their Company.

From the Shareholders side the Employees’ Benefit Fund, launched in 1908, was designed to assist the needy among former employees and employees suffering from sickness or family misfortune. It has been and is augmented from time to time by grants made at Annual General Meetings of the Company. From the workers’ side the Mutual Help Fund, inaugurated in 1916, is a fund supported by quarterly contributions collected by workers representatives from their own comrades, and donations from various sources. It is administered by a committee of four, three of whom are elected by the shop stewards, and is intended to provide means for making grants to sick employees and others who may be in need of assistance as a result of some misfortune. The amount of the disbursements from this fund are published annually in the works magazine “Our Journal’, but the details of all grants made are treated as confidential. Some of the initiative towards new schemes of direct participation in workshop activities has come from the Works Committee.

(1)      Works Committee, Report of’ Proceedings during 1920.

(2)       After the York agreement of 1919 a separate Committee was formed for the Iron Foundry and later a women’s Works Committee (see pp.XXX).

(3)    It is printed in Appendix 11.

The Savings Association, for instance, was created during the depression in 1930 to “encourage the employees of Mather & Platt to accumulate a sum of money which can be used towards providing an increased income for their old age, or something worth striving for, through the medium of National Savings Certificates, or State security, the Members’ Savings being supplemented by Savings Certificates presented by the Company.(1) Membership is voluntary, and only three conditions are laid down- workers must not be on the salaried staff, must be at least 18 years old, and must have been continuously employed for six months by the Company. A grant of National Savings Certificates, in proportion to those saved by the employee, is added by the Company, the proportion rising with increasing years of service, until an employee with over 35 years continuous employment with the Company receives one certificate for every one purchased with his own savings. The maximum subscription allowed by H.M. Treasury is four shillings a week by the member.

Other projects launched under the auspices of the Works Committee include the hire of overalls and schemes for the purchase, at cost price, of tools and safety boots the last two on the basis of weekly contributions. Privileges obtained by negotiation include the services of a men’s hairdresser, who visits the Works each Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Leave of absence without pay is granted to any male employee who desires to take advantage of this service. A proportion of the charge made is placed to the credit of the Mutual Help Fund.

The Works Committee was instrumental in arranging with the Manchester Corporation Transport Department for a service of special works buses; a great convenience to employees living a considerable distance away. Employees have also been granted the right to ballot for the date of the annual works holiday. There were ten “Premium Time” days for recognised holidays observed in the Manchester district, two of which, Christmas Day and Good Friday are paid “Double Time” if worked and eight other days which are mutually agreed by the Works Committee, paid for at “Day Time Rate and Half” for all hours worked.

The success of the main Works Committee led to the setting up of a similar institution at Salford Foundry, later transferred to Park Works, the Iron Foundry Committee, and to the organisation of a Women’s Committee, consisting of representatives of the women workers and management both of which meet fortnightly. Among the special privileges accorded to women workers, who have now penetrated many departments of the factory, is the daily fifteen-minute break, with pay, at 10.0a.m. and 4.0p.m. when women are allowed to go into the Dining Room and obtain tea free of charge.

In addition to the above-mentioned bodies, two Apprentices Associations co-ordinate the Social activities of Trade and Special Apprentices and a committee composed of representatives of management and apprentices meets monthly to discuss problems of particular interest to apprentices.

(1)Extract from the Rules of the Mather & Platt Ltd. (Works) National Savings Provident Association.

6. The Prevention of Accidents

Another problem in a large modern factory, the prevention of accidents, has received constant attention in the various works of the Company, since Mather & Platt Ltd. joined The British Industrial ‘Safety First’ Association in 1922. The Factories Act of 1901 marked the beginning of official safety regulations in factories in this country. Shortly afterwards a Safety First Association was formed and this, like many other good ideas, spread to the United States where the need was even greater than in the United Kingdom.

It was not until 1918 however, that accident prevention in factories was to be encouraged by the formation of an Industrial ‘Safety First’ Association. Four years later a Manchester and District Branch came into existence as the result of a meeting, held at Park Works under the chairmanship of Mr. L.E.Mather and attended by representatives of Engineering, Chemical Iron and Steel, Sawmill and Mining Trades. From the start a close and friendly connection was formed with the Factory Department of the Home Office. H.M. Inspectors have continued to take an active interest in the work of this voluntary Association. The name of the Association was later changed to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents and under its new title it combines with efforts to increase industrial safety, public safety on the roads, in schools and in the homes. Many supplementary Factory Acts passed between the years 1901 and 1929 included new provisions for the safety and well being of industrial workers. Simultaneously the Works Committees at Newton Heath and Salford had played an important part in investigating accidents in the machine shops and foundries and in 1938 a Works Safety Committee was formed. This Committee included representatives of management and workers under the chairmanship of a Shop Superintendent.

Evidence of the value of attention given to accident prevention in the Company's Works is shown by the records. Since 1925 when lost-time accidents involved 2.39% of employees in the works, the casualty list has fallen steadily to 0.4% the figure at the time of writing; thus indicating a marked reduction in the number of productive man hours lost from this cause.

One of the regular features of the work of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents in the Manchester district has been the staging of Annual Ambulance Competitions. Since the formation of the Society the Manchester competitions have always been held on the premises of Mather & Platt Ltd.

The Second World War gave an impetus to two new features in industrial relations. In the first place, it encouraged the setting up of new organisations designed to increase output, and, following a national lead, Mather & Platt Ltd. established Departmental Joint Production Consultative and Advisory Committees, to meet monthly. There are six committees representing the various production departments at Park Works — General Machinery, Fire Engineering, Electrical, Pump, Iron Foundry with Pattern Shop and Roller Shutter Shop and a seventh at Radcliffe for the Food Machinery department.

About three times a year the Central Meeting of the members of the Departmental Joint Production Consultative and Advisory Committees, drawn from the members of the six committees at Park Works, is held to review the general situation and the work of the departmental committees. Another object of the Committee is to influence conceptions of welfare, stressing the need for relaxation at the same time as and parallel to the need for increased production, and underlining the desire for all workers to feel that they are part of the concerns in which they spend their working hours.

It is in line with these trends that a Social Club was set up by Mather & Platt Ltd. in March 1947 “to promote and co-ordinate all the social activities of employees”. Extensive new sports fields were provided by the Company, which both gave a “green belt” appearance to Park Works, and provided adequate facilities for healthy open-air recreation. The subscription to the Club is 2d. per week - ld. for those under 18 - and the amenities provided include mid-day concerts by members of the choir, Silver Band and Concert Party; monthly dances; football, cricket, bowls and badminton. Those are the delights of a new age, only the revived ‘Silver Band’ recalling the forgotten days of Victorian England.

But it is not only the manual workers who have shared in the welfare activities of the firm. The Staff Holiday Club, an inheritance from the Salford Iron Works, is an early example of a welfare organisation going back to the beginning of the century. Originally run by and for the Textile Department staff, it came to Park Works and was there expanded to embrace all the staff. Officials of the club, which is now run by a voluntary Committee, collect weekly subscriptions from the members as savings towards the annual holidays, interest being added by the Company. In 1950 the Club numbered just over 600 members, and the repayments amounted to 7,800.

A contributory scheme to secure pensions for members of the Male Staff was inaugurated in 1919 and a supplementary Pension Scheme, launched in 1947 to take into consideration the rising cost of living was introduced to provide new benefits for the senior officials of the Company. A scheme to provide female members of the staff with pensions at the age of 60 was introduced in 1948.

In 1952 the Directors decided to increase the benefits payable under the Staff Contributory Pension Scheme and also to convert that Scheme to non-contributory. At the same time the Directors made arrangements for the existing Works Savings Scheme to be succeeded by an Assurance Scheme for all male hourly paid workpeople between the ages of 25 and 60 years who have completed three years continuous service with the Company. Both Schemes provide for retirement benefits at the age of 65 and also a payment to employee's dependants in the event of death occurring before that age.

"You have joined, a firm with a fine reputation” begins the little booklet Information for Employees, which tells newcomers about service, amenities and conditions of employment at Park Works. The object of such productions of the Company in an age when individuals often appear to be less important than groups is to make each employee take a personal sense of pride in belonging to an old and established business and to know something of the whole picture into which he will fit.

When “Our Journal” made its appearance in October 1919 the Editor expressed the view that to many workers everything “outside their own department is a closed book”. If this is still the case with some workers, it is certainly not the fault of the Company. Although its products are diverse and its technical processes often distinct, Mather & Platt Ltd. is conscious of the unity of its enterprise and is anxious to communicate the sense of unity to all employees. What the first workers knew because they all knew each other and the representatives of the family which employed them, must now be communicated in twentieth century terms by twentieth century means to several thousand employees at home and abroad. As times change so ideas and methods will continue to change, but the road which has already and still is being trod is one of which the founders would have been legitimately proud.