Kingston Aviation
Michael Frain
Transcript: 7
Us and them

The polarization which characterized much of the relations between management and the trade unions in British industry in the late 20th century was also present in the ‘us and them’ attitudes prevalent at BAe Kingston. Michael here describes how this model of industrial relations no longer ‘cut it’ in a more competitive and globalised world where a focus on profits and the bottom line was the key to survival.

I suppose it was fairly typical of British Industry but it does seem to have been pretty strong here. There was very much an ‘us and them’ attitude.

There was an ‘us and them’ attitude and I think it’s all sewn up…  Whilst the management, don’t get me wrong, the management were well knowledgeable about the aircraft and facilities and how they wanted to manufacture them. And the workforce had responded obviously, for the previous fifty years or whatever, in meeting the building of the aircraft. The world had changed outside aviation, the world had changed a lot and also profits were becoming more and more important.

You had to survive and also you had to invest in modern machinery. You couldn’t use the same machine that you’d used forty- fifty years before. You had to think, how am I going to do better quality, better finishes, lower cost of maintenance. And I think that’s where the problem lay. The management didn’t always see the need for change. And because they didn’t see the need for change they didn’t see the need for the union to change.

So the management and unions were, sort of, tied into a kind of, an unholy alliance, if you like?

I think that’s a good way of summing it up Bill.