Labour Management under Public Ownership

  • Leslie Hannah


The electricity supply industry was pre-eminently capital- rather than labour-intensive: it accounted for 8 per cent of UK investment but employed well under 1 per cent of the national workforce. Many engineers and managers naturally devoted their primary energies to the technical and financial policies which were the major touchstones of the industry’s performance. Yet the importance of good industrial relations had also traditionally been recognised, since it was vital (not only to the industry but to the British economy generally) that the plant they operated be maintained in continuous operation free of strikes. On nationalisation, the industry also became an important test case for the Labour Party’s somewhat imprecise commitment to the control of industry by ‘the workers by hand and by brain’. Citrine, though he insisted on participation in the engineering and financial areas in which his deputy chairmen had responsibility for developing policy, devoted his own energies most firmly and consistently to the improvements he considered necessary in the area of labour management. It was evident to his colleagues from the beginning that he would insist on a high priority for labour questions, and that on some central issues on which he felt strongly he would brook no opposition.


Manual Worker Central Authority Electricity Supply Union Leader Public Ownership 
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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    For a fuller account of the consultative machinery, see R. D. V. Roberts and H. Sallis, ‘Joint Consultation in the Electricity Supply Industry 1949–1959’, Public Administration, vol. 37, 1959.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Speech at TUC Conference, September 1950, Brighton, reprinted in Lord Citrine, Nationalised Industries Face the Test (1950) p. 11.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    M. Shanks (ed.) Lessons of Public Enterprise (1963) p. 117.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    For the TUC view see Sir Norman Chester, The Nationalisation of British Industry 1945–1951 (1975) p. 850.Google Scholar
  5. 8.
    P. Williams, Hugh Gaitskell, A Political Biography (1979) p. 172; Lord Citrine, Two Careers (1967) pp. 283–4; The Times, 13–17 December 1949, passim.Google Scholar
  6. 10.
    For a comprehensive survey see H. Sallis, ‘Pay and Conditions in Electricity Supply before the Status Agreement’, Electricity, January/February 1968, on which the following paragraphs draw. Changes in earnings quoted in the text are based on Sallis’s figures but adjusted to real terms by the retail price index.Google Scholar
  7. 15.
    Lord Citrine, Two Careers (1967) p. 281.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Electricity Council 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • Leslie Hannah
    • 1
  1. 1.London School of EconomicsUK

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