What do we do if we don’t make nukes? Lucas Aerospace Project 40 Years On

lucas-aerospace-shop-stewards-photo

The Lucas Aerospace Shop Stewards in 1977

The Lucas Plan Story

But if we don’t make nukes won’t a lot of people be out of work?  A group of shop stewards in Birmingham puzzled over this problem 40 years ago.  This picture above records a fascinating episode not only in the history of the work towards nuclear disarmament in this country, but also something that happened right on our patch in Hall Green in 1976-7, at the Shaftsmoor Lane, Lucas Aerospace Factory, pictured below.

lucas-aerospace-factoryAs you may know, there is nothing left of this factory now: it was demolished a few years ago and the site now stands empty.  (A supermarket plan and care home plan failed.) but whilst all the things the shop stewards dreamed of never happened, and the tumbleweed may be blowing through that site on Shaftsmoor Lane ..

lucas-factory-being-demolishedhere is the history of what happened on that now empty site, which is to be commemorated in a celebration conference for the Lucas Plan to take place on Saturday 26th of November, 9-5 pm at the BVSC in Birmingham.

The Lucas Aerospace Shop Stewards Combine’s Alternative Corporate Plan (‘The Lucas Plan’) was launched in 1976 and became famous worldwide, sparking an international movement for socially useful production and workers’ plans. Facing the threat of redundancies, the Combine collected 150 ideas from shop floor workers about alternative socially useful products that could be produced by the company, instead of relying on military orders. Many of the innovations in the plan, such as hybrid car engines, heat pumps and wind turbines were commercially viable and are now in widespread use. Although the Alternative Plan was rejected by Lucas Aerospace managers, it was instrumental in protecting jobs at Lucas in the 1970s. The Combine was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 and Mike Cooley (an Irish-born trade-unionist involved in the Lucas Plan), received the Right Livelihood Award in 1982.

More information about the Plan, including the 53-page summary of the five 200 page volumes, can be found at www.lucasplan.org.uk.

On November 26th leading figures from the left, trade union, environmental and peace movements are coming together to celebrate it and use its ideas to tackle current crises. As part of the anniversary celebrations, there is a new documentary film screening of ‘The Plan’, book releases of the new edition’s of Mike Cooley’s ‘Architect or Bee’ and ‘The Lucas Plan: a new trade unionism in the making?’ and the Lucas Plan archive is being digitised. ‘The Plan’ is a new documentary film made with 5 of the workers who developed the Lucas Plan, telling the story of their campaign to transform their military orientated company towards socially useful production, will be shown at the conference.

For more time and venu details and to book your place please go to here. http://lucasplan.org.uk/tickets/

Why this matters to us now.

Forty years ago those shop stewards at Shaftsmoor Lane were talking about one of the same things we talked about at CND Conference in October 2016.

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MP Rebecca Long-Bailey addresses CND Conference

This year CND took note of the commitment made by Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party to ‘enter government with a [defence diversification] plan – discussed and agreed with communities, workforce, trade unions and industries affected over the next five years – for protecting skills and diversifying work so that no jobs or skills are ‘lost’

We also noted: ‘The decision of Unite the Union’s own Policy conference in July 2016 to welcome ‘the renewed focus Jeremy Corbyn has placed on defence diversification’ in the context of the priority he rightly places on world disarmament.

We believed that we must continue to expose the declining levels of employment Britain’s nuclear weapons systems have provided over the years and the failure of Trident replacement to provide any guaranteed employment to affected workers.

BUT Further work on employment generally, and defence diversification in particular, is a priority issue for the peace movement in order (a) to expose the inadequate job security associated with Trident and (b) develop our arguments in relation to investment in alternative employment

So we have come full circle.  The Lucas Aerospace plan was important 40 years ago.  Lucas Aerospace in Hall Green is no more, but the thinking behind the ideas that were dreamed up there are even more vital today.  This time let’s not use the tired old ‘we need to keep the jobs’ argument, spend 205 billion on making Trident. Instead come to this conference and see how diversification of nuclear weapons skills and technologies could work – now that we need it more than ever.  See how  we could build jobs, and keep nuclear weapons technology factories open in the future without Trident being in the picture.

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