Industry: water, steel & energy

Camsey, Granville (7 of 16). An Oral History of the Electricity Supply in the UK

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  • Recording date

    2013-04-18, 2013-05-02, 2013-09-26, 2013-10-22, 2013-12-10, 2014-01-14, 2014-01-28, 2014-03-17, 2014-04-15

  • Recording locations

    Interviewee's home, Buckinghamshire

  • Interviewees

    Camsey, Granville, 1936- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 7: Detailed description of Rugeley Power Station when GC became manager: coal burning power station; GC delighted to get manager's job, in spite of desiring post managing prestigious Ratcliffe station; Rugeley management team of Site Deputy, deputy responsible for A station; split of Rugeley into A and B stations; A station's five 120MW equipment sets and two shift working to meet daytime demand; B station's two 500MW equipment, brand new with contractors still on site to fix problems; Chief mechanical, electrical, instrument and coal & ash engineers and chemist having responsibility across both sites; separate operations superintendent, operating teams and maintenance staff for each station; [04:10] anecdote about yearly visit to Lee Hall Colliery, beneath the power station, to inspect integrity of coal pillar underlying station; contrasts of atmosphere at A station, influenced by Skargillism of mine, and more professional B station; conflicts between two station. [06:55] Comments on poor industrial relations: GC previous experience in new nuclear power stations, with limited trade unionism; great influence of trade unions and shop stewards in A station; value of experienced admin officer Roy Claffy; GC taking a hard line with industrial relations, causing him problems; conflict between different silos of personnel; lack of management consultation compared to GC previous experience under Mike Kelly at Oldbury of regular thrice weekly morning management meetings; GC instigation of regular management meetings improving conversation between different groups of staff; start of regular management meetings at A station under deputy Albert RN. [11:50] Remarks on: contrast of highly disciplined management process at nuclear stations with looser processes at coal station; chief maintenance engineer John Hollinworth; lack of money for improvements at troubled B station, support of Director of Production Hugh Matthews for making improvements; anecdote about GC asking John Hollinworth to dramatically improve maintenance of coal mills, without actually having a budget for it; great level of independence of decision making given to power station managers; contrast of nuclear and coal stations approaches to allocation of specialist resources. [15:30] Remarks on resolving technical issues: new power stations frequently troubled; creation of Technical and Development Officer post, occupied by Phil Spencer, later a director of National Power; Spencer working out 3 year development plan to resolve B station problems; A-station deputy Ted Fuller developing co-extruded boiler tubes, partially made of stainless steel, to minimise damage from highly sulphurous coal, fiscally supported by GC and refitted to A station. [18:50] Comments on labour relations: Walter Citrine's national consultative and negotiation process limiting scope for local negotiations; local trade unions constantly demanding improvements and arrangements; trade unions disliking use of contractors and blacking equipment maintained by them in A station; small lagging team supported by contractors; lagger shop stewards Jim Moss and Graham Norton causing GC problems until GC took a hard line over high sickness levels. [22:05] Story about short unofficial strike amongst industrial staff: high sickness levels resulting in high overtime payments; GD discovering processes to identify and assist genuinely ill staff were poorly managed and attempting to reform them; GC disagreement with shop steward Jim Moss; GC ordering objecting maintenance staff off site; GC lack of authority in situation; GC appeal to EPEA engineers to run power station without missing industrial staff, fortuitously discovering that EPEA elected president worked at B station; Hugh Matthews checking on GC; [27:40] GC previous closure of road through site; shop steward representative asking GC if they could come back to work, resolving strike; subsequent reduction of sickness levels and other improvements; Rugeley B subsequently gaining excellent operating record, recognised by visit of regional directors, beating Ratcliffe; three day duration of strike; managers having to change their approaches. [32:05] Remarks on: GC challenging practice of offering time off in lieu rather than overtime pay, to ensure prompt repairs of equipment without damaging performance elsewhere; wide variety of view amidst 1300 staff; anecdote about coal and ash engineer John Pattern wearing a lay minister's dog collar to work. [34:54] Story about employing first female security guard; difficulties stopping thieving on site, union objections to searches; rearrangement of rotas to accommodate objections of a male security officer. [37:40] Remarks on homosexual security guard: unacknowledged nature of homosexuality at time; anecdote about GC learning that staff member was homosexual; scrap metal contractor objecting to improper treatment of a van driver by security guard; sacking of security guard in spite of objections of trade unions. [41:05] Remarks on: local industrial difficulties supposed to be passed through extensive process, rather than resulting in staff walking off site; lengthy works committees at Rugeley often censuring GC. [43:30] Story about GC being censured by works committee for his car parking arrangements: anecdote about GC taking a hard line with contractors parking on yellow line; parking of cars in garage to keep cars clear of acidic smut from coal; GC concerns over having his car parked for him; works committee objecting to GC car being on a yellow line; GC solution of surreptitiously having a parking space painted around his car before the work committee meeting finished. [47:10] Further remarks on industrial relations: support from GC staff for his measures; anecdote about GC site walk around becoming a game of cat and mouse with staff; GC practice of chatting directly with staff in canteen; conflict between engineers and industrial staff; EPEA engineers supporting GC hard line in short strike; GC determined to improve performance at all costs; anecdote about GC disagreement with engineering staff over his creation of a score board for shift managers, attracting attention from elsewhere in CEGB; great skill of engineer Wilson in fine tuning equipment to gain maximum output. [53:35] Story about boiler house fire: GC requiring a 7am phone call in the event of station not meeting load, disliked by middle managers who were bypassed; anecdote about phone call informing him of a boiler fire and discovering boiler house roof on fire; GC asking for assistance of Area Electricity Board district manager in repairing electrics; good publicity of CEGB and Area Boards working closely together. [57:25] Remarks on Area Boards: GC limited GC contact with Area Boards; CEGB and Area Board only meeting structurally at Electricity Council; Cockfoster's joint CEGB and Area Board management training course to encourage good relationships; anecdote about Electricity Council deputy chairman Austin Bunch removing his artificial leg unexpectedly before a dinner. [1:00:40] Remarks on engineering professional societies: fragmentation of sector; desire to create a single body to represent engineers to government, leading to Monty Finiston report eventually leading to Engineering Council, which GC eventually served on before Royal Academy of Engineering; GC meeting with Monty Finiston at Rugeley; anecdote about Bill Cusworth at Heysam changing GC negative view of professional societies; GC view that engineering societies were backward looking and undynamic; GC later taking part in unsuccessful inquiry to unify of engineering societies. [1:05:50] Remarks on computers: Midlands Region Resource Planning Director Frank Ledger wanting more use of computers in power stations; use of computers in power stations for such reasons as monitoring performance data, and optimising operations; GC taking part in Frank Ledger scheme for greater standardisation; difficulty assessing impact of scheme; power stations each having individual maintenance processes developed over time, economic advantages of standardising on one computer system; identifying of core commonalities between power stations and scope for local changes. [1:10:40] Remarks over changes to allow two shift rather than constant use of 500MW sets: Electricity Council concern over electricity pricing, setting of bulk supply tariff by CEGB setting prices for Area Boards, increased competition from gas; design of 500MW machines for base loading not 2 shifting for intermittent use; process to change 500MW equipment to allow two shifting; GC chosen to rebut Electricity Council view on two shifting at yearly regional conference, possibly impressing CEGB Personnel Director David Jefferies. [1:16:40] Description of Rugeley power station and power station life: large size of site; sports and social club, in competition with miners club; 10 acre pond for fishing with trout farm built by Phil Spencer; scaffolder Ron Marshall introducing GC son to a lifelong interest in fishing; cooling towers; anecdote about reorganising messy contractors yard. [1:20:40] Remarks on contractor D.A.D. Monroe: anecdote about Monroe's excessive gifts of alcoholic drinks to staff and GC's resolution of the situation; anecdote about Monroe's innovative strategy for creating a professional impression and later success as a contractor to North Sea Oil companies; death of Monroe's son; anecdote about Monroe later taking GC to a meeting at the Ritz, where GC surprised right wing Monroe by donating money to miners' collection. [1:25:45] Further remarks on Rugeley site: entrenched staff attitudes at older A station; anecdote about GC objecting to tea drinking by operators in A station control room; anecdote about GC demanding reorganisation of untidy notice boards, to delight of Ron Claffy; description of Ron Claffy; anecdote about GC objecting to spiders webs in equipment cabinets; anecdote about awful food in A-station canteen due to canteen manager spending more time catering for sports and social club; [1:31:55] B station's superior attitude; division of staff between stations; similar physical size of A and B stations in spite of power difference; GC unsuccessful attempt to manage two stations as one.

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