Ron Gardiner

The story so far

It all began one cold Monday morning on the 17 November 1975. Standing on the bottom of West Way waiting for a pre-arrange lift with another Evode old veteran - Charlie Grant. In those days we started work at 7.30am but Charlie liked to be in early so as to have a coffee, fag and chat to his mates.

I remember gazing around this half-lit half empty canteen aware that I hardly knew anyone. I knew Charlie as he was part-time barman in the Yeoman public House on West Way, which I used most nights.

That first day at Evode was eventful to say the least, namely because of a threat by the IRA claiming that they had planted a bomb on the premises. As a precaution everyone was evacuated to the Social Club. The day then resumed as normal with Graham ‘Jimmy Hill’ Turner showing the job and tour of the factory.

Two weeks later my mate with the same length of service started work - Malcolm Watwood. Malcolm and myself started work in the Adhesives, as part of Mastics Department, on the extruders which were then steam fed and had to be reset every 15 minutes or so.

Some of the characters around then were Eddie Newman and Reg Moseley who were Manager and Forman; both were a comical pair a bit like Morecambe and Wise. Other characters in that era were Sid Wooton - a no nonsense ex war Sargeant Major, Lionel Fletcher - our much loved and greatly respected works convenor (by both workers and managers) - Lionel commanded greatly deserved respect.

Like others of my generation there are bits of the 1970’s I cannot always recollect but I shall move on.

I was interviewed for the job by our then Manager of Mastics John Earle. John was a right nice guy, a real middle class gent with a modern view of industrial relations. We used to have some good chats. John sadly got moved sideways in a reshuffle and Ian Melville took the helm. Here we go onwards and upwards. That was 1977, I came back into Mastics as a shop serviceman. A job I kept until 1992.

On 8 January 1979 I asked a certain young lady out, Julie Gray, who worked for Bob Horne, Accounts Office Manager. That relationship flourished and we married on 5 June 1982. We have been together now 25 years and have 2 children, Rebecca 17 and Liam 14.

Back to Evode, I was appointed Shop Steward for Mastics in 1980 and made Senior Shop Steward in 1981 gaining the privilege of working on the negotiating committee with the likes of Lionel Fletcher, Graham Wood, John Brown, Neville Gibson and Maurice Ferneyhough. That was arguably the strongest union body to ever represent the workers at Evode. I must at this stage also acknowledge my respect for the management committees of the day, Robin Tompkins, Keith Lewis and John Paul, who were a formidable threesome to deal with, we commanded mutual respect of each other. I nearly forgot to mention our highly respected District Secretary of the TGWU, a Mr Bill Young, who could cut a deal with the best of them, especially in difficult times of industrial unrest. He was a true realist.

Those 1980’s were times of great change and opportunity with the never ending need to product more product faster and cheaper to satisfy a new customer base in the DIY sheds, the likes of Do It All, Wickes and B & Q demanded those changes.

None of that would have taken place if it were not for the dedication of the workforce so may I at this stage pay homage to the hard work of Pauline Constantine, our tireless organized Supervisor of those days, Janet Prime, Carol Meecham, Joan Gask and the Woodman Twins, all of whom, worked long and hard to achieve 1980’s production targets. The men that used to make it happen back then were the likes of Jim O’Connor, Tutty, Howard Farmer, Geoff Hewison, Jo Rock and Pete Constantine. We were always jokingly referred to as the Evode 200 Club, though I can’t imagine why.

So the 1980’s passed and in came the 1990’s which was an era of ever more change, not least the three takeovers. Ian Melville moved to Adhesives in a reshuffle and in came Derek Uren, a straight talking, no nonsense northerner from Bury. Derek came from a non union background and could not understand that he did not have the power to sack someone, but he came round. Derek stayed with us until the Laporte takeover in 1992 then moved back up north to work for a competitor. That same year I put my first foot on the Supervisory ladder by passing a City and Guilds certificate in Training and Assessment. In 1994 I was appointed Team Leader for Bulk Manufacture in upstairs Mastics. In 1995 I sat and passed a Team Leader course which included an element of training team leaders myself. I also passed a manual handling instructor course that year. 1996/7 I passed NEBSM, also an NVQ 3 and in 2000 I passed NEBOSH Health and Safety. I have seen a lot of change in management over my near 30 years in Mastics, I have served under 6 managers, namely John Earle, Ian Melville, Derek Uren, Graham Richardson, Tom Leadbetter and for the past 6 years Andy Williamson.

All of the past people have adopted differing managerial style, the latest being one of softly softly and empowerment; I have to say that they all work to a degree but achieve differing results. The last takeover of Total Fina/Elf has left us being Bostik and has brought more changes in the last two years than in all of the previous 20 years. The command chain had been dramatically rationalized along with other support staff, admin and labs. Operators on the shop floor have more empowerment in areas of total quality, having to test and record their own work. I for one think the changes now in place, though they were tough ones, have strengthened the job security for those of us left in employment.

Just to end, I hope I am still around in another 30 years to write a few lines on those events.