Industry: water, steel & energy
Vey, Peter (6 of 10). An Oral History of the Electricity Supply in the UK
The British Library Board acknowledges the intellectual property rights of those named as contributors to this recording and the rights of those not identified.
Legal and ethical usage »
2016-01-28, 2016-02-19, 2016-04-04, 2016-04-18, 2016-05-10, 2016-05-20
Vey, Peter, 1928- (speaker, male)
Lean, Thomas (speaker, male)
Part 6: Remarks on joining Rootes: PV tiring of settled nature of oil industry, PV wanting more of a challenge, little opportunity for promotion; Rootes job advertised without identifying company; PV knowing little of motor industry before, but impressed by its growth; PV first car an Austin, mentions appropriately staid Morris Oxford company car at National Benzol. [03:10] Remarks on Rootes-Chrysler: Rootes originally a family owned company, weakest company who had invested little in new models; backing of Chrysler making Rootes attractive to work for; excitement of motor industry, but many challenges with industrial relations; troubled Linwood car plant, built due to government initiatives; problems with new Hillman Imp car; militant workforce at Linwood plant, used to freedom of piecework in shipbuilding rather than rigours of production line work; anecdote about PV introductory dinner with chairman Lord Rootes in his private dining room at Devonshire house headquarters; description of pleasant and lively Lord Rootes; Chrysler taking much of initiative at company, Americans prominent in company, such as Don Lander; modernising chairman Gilbert Hunt. [08:50] Remarks on PV job at Rootes: mostly concerned with corporate image of company rather than individual products, the responsibility of John Rowe; outline of PV position in Rootes, bureaucratic nature of American companies, PV reporting to public relations director John Bullock; PV having subordinate staff at plants; mentions being impressed by launch of improved model at Devonshire House early in PV work for Rootes, glamorous nature of car launch party; PV based in Devonshire House, other Rootes offices at Bowater House, later amalgamated; PV deciding to leave air conditioned office to be closer to staff in open office; informal environment. [14:00] Examples of PV work at Rootes: PV early job dealing with coverage of industrial relations dispute at Ryton plant in Coventry; arranging press visits to refurbished Ryton plant; tours of production line for new model cars; industrial relations best handled in private, but PV needing to abreast of situation in case of problems and need to brief press with company's side of story; car models giving company it's image, Rootes much involved in car rallying; public relations often defensive; [18:10] success of Hillman Hunter in rallying; promotions around the modernisation of plants; Hillman Imp well loved but unreliable car, anecdote about PV selling his unreliable Imp to a cousin; well regarded Sunbeam Alpine, PV having rally version of Alpine; negative effects of 1970s three-day week on Rootes. [22:40] Remarks on strikes in car industry: Shoddy work dispute at Ryton; constant problems over different pay rates between Coventry and Linwood, Linwood supposedly offering cheaper staff but staff demanding same rates as Coventry; electrician's dispute at Coventry over unions rejecting government mandated pay increase; Rootes deciding to publicise a rejected pay rise at Linwood, causing another strike, husbands not sharing details of pay packets with wives at time. [26:30] [cont' from 26:30] Remarks on: PV responsibility for press briefings and statements; most papers inclined to be more sympathetic to workers than management; anti-American feeling at time, despite Chrysler rescuing Rootes; promotion of company around plants through sponsoring local events; anecdote about entertainment at Rootes box at Coventry football club being mostly supplied by watching football hooligans; [31:10] PV direct contact with shop stewards and staff, often reasonable people; American managers good at mixing with different levels in company; anecdote about down to earth but bad tempered Chrysler CEO John 'The Flamethrower' Riccardo appearance before a Parliamentary select committee; PV responsibility for hospitality for American visitors, anecdote about PV drawing ire of John Riccardo during a dinner, Americans not understanding irony; [35:30] American managers seeming more direct in style than British; Don Lander in regular contact with Chrysler in Detroit, Chrysler keeping close eye on Rootes but not micromanaging; hard-working and respected Don Lander; feeling of being in company that was failing at Rootes, anecdote about cost cutting to leading to end of first class travel; Rootes lack of investment in new models of car; few cars imported into Britain when PV joined Rootes, but competition from quality Japanese and German imports growing. [41:10] Story about seedy side of car industry being evident at Motor Show, where Lamborghini used a topless model to advertise their car. [43:10] Remarks on: cars largely sold to men at time; London and Geneva Motor Shows major events of industry calender; PV overseas trips to Geneva and Milan Motor Shows; strikes and 3 day week key events of PV time in car industry. [45:35] Remarks on strikes: PV coming to loath trade unions for their role in ruining Rootes through strikes; PV previously a member of NUJ, moderate stance at time, PV delegate to annual NUJ conference; labour relations director Peter Griffiths professional view on trade unions; trade unions damaging industry through interruptions in production, missing of targets; anecdote about tough American manager of Linwood sacking an employee, which caused a strike; Labour government intervention to rescue Rootes for political reasons, Linwood staff responding by striking over pay and staking claim to be in charge, issue going to ACAS; mentions subsequent interview with UKEAE. [51:10] Remarks on life in 1970s: PV moving from London to Leamington Spa, anecdote about recently seeing former 1970s home in Leamington and finding it horrible; description of 1970s home; description of run down 1970s Coventry, problems with violence; PV enjoying life in the Midlands more generally, good social life with Americans around Leamington, mentions long lasting friendships with Americans, Warwick university and IBM adding to social mix. [56:05] Remarks on leaving car industry to join UKAEA in 1976: PV concerned about future of Chrysler-Rootes; wife suggesting he apply to a job advertisement in 'Sunday Times', which turned out to be for UKAEA; PV offered job subject to strenuous security clearance, PV awarded SECRET-ATOMIC security clearance; PV only discovering job advertised was for UKAEA when application forms arrived; outline of interview panel membership, anecdote about PV response to question; UKAEA seeming to want a mature publicity director; mentions boss Frank Chadwick; [1:01:00] [cont' from 1:01:00] PV knowing little about nuclear power before job, but making great efforts to learn before interview; PV seeing nuclear power as the future and a useful source of energy. [1:02:31] Remarks on: PV impressions of UKAEA:,impressed at straightness of organisation; PV grateful to have ended working life in interesting energy industry, with high quality people; PV feeling fortunate to have worked with Sir John Hill, Walter Marshall and John Baker and others; mentions death of Hill from dementia; anecdote about Frank Chadwick management strategy; PV not having entertainment expenses he had enjoyed in car industry; PV regarded with suspicion across UKAEA at first; [1:06:00] outline of PV first day, newly decorated office, secretary, lunch with Chadwick; PV realising he had to try to develop scientific understanding; reliable press officer Graham Starr; PV initially commuting to London; seeing he could make a difference; Royal Commission On Environmental Pollution [Flowers Committee] producing devastating report against nuclear expansion until nuclear waste solution found; anecdote about PV calling a press conference immediately after Flower's press conference, to get across UKAEA response. [1:09:30] Remarks on early issues effecting PV at UKAEA: nuclear waste issue identified by Flowers Report appearing a key issue; UKAEA dumping of low level waste in ocean opposed by Green Peace; UKAEA Harwell beginning to drill for possible nuclear waste storage sites; PV taking job because he wanted to leave car industry and because UKAEA seemed interesting, prestigious and stable; PV move to London, able to afford better house in Coventry than London at time, needing to leave son at Boarding school in Warwick, wife returning to work; PV excited and absorbed by new job; PV putting work before life due to its interest, tolerant wife, reasonable work life balance; support role of wife in PV career.