AS you thumb through the indexes of books written by or about leading British politicians of the 1960s, from Tony Benn and Barbara Castle to Tony Crosland, it’s hard not to be struck by the sheer number of references to trade unions, industrial relations and disputes.

As Castle wrote in her diaries upon becoming Labour’s Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity in 1968, “industrial disputes came crowding in on me thick and fast.” This was a time when such matters were given blanket coverage in the media; at one early point in her new post, Castle made a speech that was covered by “some twenty top-ranking industrial correspondents.” At length, she introduced In Place of Strife, a controversial White Paper that sought to reform the trade unions.

Disputes, whatever their cause, were given prominent coverage by the Glasgow Herald. On October 2, 1969, our industrial reporter, Ian Imrie, wrote that an estimated 50,000 engineers in the West of Scotland had stopped work for two hours the previous day in support of some 900 employees of B.S.R, East Kilbride, which produced record players.

The B.S.R. workers had been on strike for nearly seven weeks over the failure of the company to recognise their union.

More than 3,000 members of the Amalgamated Union of Engineering and Foundry Workers - including the strikers, most of whom were women - held a demonstration outside the B.S.R. factory. They were addressed (main image, far right) by Judith Hart, Paymaster-General and MP for Lanark, who urged B.S.R. to “move into the twentieth century. They are electrical record players not clockwork ones.”

The A.E.F. had 1110,000 members in Scotland at that time. Among the businesses affected by the two-hour stoppage were Rolls-Royce, Rootes at Linwood, Singer Clydebank, Hoover at Cambuslang, Burroughs at Cumbernauld and Upper Clyde Shipbuilders.

Read more: Herald Diary

Three years earlier, in September 1966, unions launched a determined campaign to force Rootes Pressings, Linwood, to introduce work-sharing on the Hillman Imp bodies instead of dismissing 500 men. It was supported by a meeting of more than 3,000 of the 6,000 employees. Ian McAngus, shop stewards’ convener and A.E.U. chief steward, told the workers (right, top) that the campaign would feature deputations to the Labour Party conference at Brighton. “A serious situation is developing not only in this factory but throughout the West of Scotland”, he said. “This must be resisted if we are not to go back to the twenties and thirties.”

In September 1979, union leaders faced a growing revolt by thousands of workers who planned to ignore a two-day strike the following week. Workers at Singer (right, bottom) joined thousands of Leyland workers at the Cowley assembly plant in Oxford in asserting their own right-to-work campaign. Many Singer workers were already on short-time working. The strike had been called in support of an £80 basic weekly wage in the engineering industry.