Collection SOHC 1 - Conversations with workers at the former Linwood car plant

Identity area

Reference code

GB 249 SOHC 1

Title

Conversations with workers at the former Linwood car plant

Date(s)

  • Digital copies, 2016 (Creation)
  • Original recordings, 1981-1985 (Creation)

Level of description

Collection

Extent and medium

69 cassette tapes + 123 digital audio files

Context area

Name of creator

(b. 1946)

Biographical history

Clifford Lockyer was born in London. Following his graduation from the University of Strathclyde (hons BA Industrial Relations and Administration, 1969), he worked as a personnel officer for Chrysler at Linwood, Renfrewshire, then took up an academic career.

After spending 1970-1971 as assistant lecturer in Social and Economic Research at the University of Glasgow, Lockyer returned to the University of Strathclyde as a lecturer in Industrial Relations (senior lecturer 1984-2003). Between 1986 and 1990, when his department merged with the Department of Administration 1990, he also acted as Head of Department and first Chairman of Department of Human Resource Management 1989 -1990.

On taking early retirement in 2003, Lockyer lectured part time at the School of Business & Management, University of Glasgow. He also held Honorary Senior Research Fellowships at University of Strathclyde (Fraser of Allander Institute, 2003-2013, and Department of Human Resource Management, 2005-2009). 2003 to 2011 he also acted as module co-ordinator at the Graduate Business School, and he relaunched the Fraser of Allander Economic Commentary. He retired for a second time in 2013.

Lockyer’s main research includes

  • the Linwood project (1981-1983), which sought to record the life of the Linwood factory from shadow war factory to closure
  • large regular surveys of Scottish Business trends (the Scottish Chambers’ Business Survey) together with surveys for Lloyds TSB, Scottish tourism and the oil and gas production and services sector, 1989-2012
  • contributions to a number of commissioned research projects conducted by the Scottish Centre for Employment Research, Department of Human Resource Management, 2000-2009

Name of creator

(Established 1995)

Administrative history

The Scottish Oral History Centre (SOHC) was set up within the Department of History at the University of Strathclyde in 1995. Since its foundation the SOHC has been involved in a wide range of teaching, research and outreach activities designed primarily to encourage the use of ‘best practice’ oral history methodology in Scotland. Until 2005, the SOHC was directed by Professor Callum Brown, since then by Professor Arthur McIvor.

Archival history

Transferred from the Scottish Oral History Centre in 2015 and 2016. The project's original ID was SOHCA/020. The recordings were made 1981-1985 using a cassette recorder. In 2016, they were digitised to uncompressed, unaltered 24 bit/96kHz BWF format for preservation. Enhancements were made to improve sound quality where necessary and 16bit/48kHz MP3 copies created for access.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Content and structure area

Scope and content

A series of interviews with former employees at the motor manufacturing complex at Linwood, Renfrewshire, 20km west of Glasgow, Scotland.

Manufacturing activity first started at Linwood during WWII, under the government's shadow factory scheme, specialising in steel processing and gun barrels, managed by the Glasgow engineering company Beardmore's. After the war, the Pressed Steel company began to manufacture railway carriages, tractors, and body parts for cars and trucks. In the early 1960s, after government pressure, the Rootes car group built a new factory at the site, commencing the full-scale production of new motor-car models, including the Hillman Imp and the Avenger, massively expanding the Linwood site. The Linwood site was taken over by the American Chrysler corporation in 1967, and was again taken over by the French company Peugeot-Citroen in 1979. Following a prolonged period of financial difficulties and industrial unrest, the Linwood plant was closed by Peugeot in 1981. During its operation, Linwood was the only full-scale motor-car production facility in Scotland, employing 8,500 workers at its peak, one of the largest single manufacturing sites in Scotland. The former factory has now been demolished.

This project was a research project undertaken by Clifford Lockyer, an economist based at the University of Strathclyde, in the early 1980s. Lockyer had previously worked at the Linwood car factory, and in his own words, "sought to record the life of the Linwood factory from shadow war factory to closure".

The interviews cover the life-span of the entire plant, including a few workers who worked at the site during WWII. The evolving nature of the site, describing the varied work of the 1950s, is featured, including the production of car parts for Vauxhall, Ford, Rolls Royce, as well as the production of railway carriages, mostly for export, with India a main destination. The most significant development at the plant - the sudden move into full-scale car production in the early 1960s, and the resulting dramatic transformation of the site - is also strongly represented in the material (this expansion is often referred to in the material as a difference between the "south site" and the "north site"). Finally, the tumultuous years of the 1970s are also featured, including the events leading up to the plant's closure in 1981. Interviews cover a wide range of jobs roles at the plant, including operators, foremen, management, and trade union officials. A key division of labour at the site was between those operators in the "tool shops", and those who worked on the car assembly line "track", and both sets of workers are represented.

The overall flow of the interviews centres around the topic of industrial relations, which was Lockyer's specialist research area. Management policies, and their effects, as well as the changes in ownership are discussed by many interviewees. Management relationships with the shopfloor are frequently mentioned. Trade union activity at the plant is heavily featured in the interviews, and some interviewees describe their roles as shop stewards. Various industrial disputes and their consequences are also relayed in detail, including the trajectory toward plant closure. A large number of different trade unions operated at Linwood, and some workers describe the interrelationships and tensions between them, as well as the organisational structures and main personalities of each union group. Many workers also discuss their own attitudes and interactions with trade unions.

The Linwood plant was largely non-unionised in the 1950s, which some workers discuss, including its impact on working life. A strike in 1948, which led to the banishment of unions, is touched upon by a few interviewees. The unionisation process of the late 1950s, resulting in the comprehensive unionisation of the entire workforce, is featured in the material, including the impact on working conditions and management relations.

The working conditions of the workplace and the everyday routines of a car factory are highlighted. Interviewees discuss their own daily routines and the organisation of their particular work section. Some interviews go into detail about payment arrangements, including the "piece" system, and bonuses. The introduction of a nightshift in the 1960s is also mentioned. Health and safety risks are very occasionally alluded to. Workers discuss their own attitudes towards their job, their frustrations and motivations, and how this changes over time. The interviews feature discussion on day-to-day problems and difficulties at the site, commenting on production and design problems, as well as quality control.

Since many interviewees worked at the Linwood plant for many years, interviewees often comment on the rise and fall of the Linwood plant over time, making allusions to the wider economic and business climate. Interviewees chart the dynamics of changing workforce morale, changing work practices and changing management attitudes over time, and try to pinpoint "where it all went wrong", reflecting on reasons for the gradual demise of the Linwood plant and the motor industry in Scotland.

Finally, a handful of interviews feature the topic of women in the Linwood workforce. Women were typically employed in a few roles at the site, but changes to this configuration are also mentioned. One interviewee discusses how many women labourers were employed at the site during WWII, undertaking roles vacated by men. Another interview discusses how - in the late 1970s - women were employed in significant numbers in jobs which previously were exclusively performed by men, including on the car assembly line "track". At least one interviewee is a former female worker, who reflects on the lack of union representation among female workers.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling

Accruals

System of arrangement

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Restricted. Please contact repository to request access.

Conditions governing reproduction

Language of material

  • English

Script of material

Language and script notes

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

This collection is part of the Scottish Oral History Centre Archive.

A box of records resulting from Clifford Lockyer's Linwood research project, including photographs (many from the professional photographer employed by Pressed Steel and Rootes) may be consulted at Renfrewshire Heritage Centre, based at Paisley Central Library.

PhD thesis (Gilmour, Alison Julia 'Examining the ‘hard-boiled bunch’: work culture and industrial relations at the Linwood car plant, c. 1963-1981' (2003, University of Glasgow)) .

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