I attended as London Federation of Green Parties Trade Union Liaison Officer and representing UCU London Retired Members’ Branch.
About 30 + attended a large minority being from CND and associated groups.
A short extract from Lucas plan video (https://youtu.be/0pgQqfpub-c) was shown. Followed by an address from Frances O’Grady, (TUC General Secretary), who focussed on the importance of consultation between workers and managements over the questions of deciding what production should be done and how it should be carried out.
She also argued that since the original Lucas Plan In 1976, many jobs were still repetitive and boring and did not involve workers in decision-making, and in some ways the contemporary situation was worse as many of the workers doing this type of work were over qualified for it. Generally she argued that the British economy suffered from “financialisation” at the expense of manufacturing. She mentioned projects that the TUC had been involved in, which addressed such matters eg the green workplace projects. Currently the negotiations around Tata steel included TUC planning for alternatives for the workforce.
Other contributions ( form Robin Murray, Hilary Wainwright and others),recounted similar projects, concerned with extending planning beyond than a managerial elite, that had taken place since 1976 including the work of the Economic Policy Unit, the Greater London Enterprise Board and the Defence Diversification Agency.
Tony Simpson (of Spokesman Books) had introduced the event by suggesting that that there was a good fit between a revived or updated Lucas plan and proposals for coping with climate change such as those in “One Million Climate Jobs: Tackling the Environmental and Economic Crisis”, but this was not discussed much, even though a message sent by Mike Cooley contained the following question: “Can sophisticated electronics renovate our transport system and keep us safe from climate change? Is there a way of combatting the dehumanisation of whole communities?”
It may be unfair to take these remarks out of a wider context of Mike Cooley’s concerns about climate change and the nature of working lives, but it would be good to debate ways in which technical fixes such as those enabling new forms of transport could fit in with a wider programme that facilitated older low-carbon forms of transport, eg walking, cycling, canals etc. Clearly transport is not the only aspect of a low carbon economy/society where such solutions could be planned and enacted.
There is a conference proposed to commemorate the Lucas Plan and also to discuss its relevance for future developments. This event is planned for October or November 2016, date and venue to be finalised (contact breakingtheframe.org.uk)
Mike Cooley “Architect or Bee: The Human Price of Technology”, Foreword by Frances O'Grady, http://www.spokesmanbooks.com/
Campaign Against Climate Change “One Million Climate Jobs: Tackling the Environmental and Economic Crisis” http://www.campaigncc.org/greenjobs
APPENDIX: The Lucas Plan
In 1976, the militant workforce within Lucas Aerospace were facing t layoffs. Under the leadership of Mike Cooley, they developed the Lucas Plan to convert the company from arms to the manufacture of socially useful products, and save jobs.
The plan was not put into place but it is claimed that the associated industrial action saved some jobs. It's a model to enact a just transition from ecologically damaging to ecologically positive employment in a low-carbon economy, where certain industries will have to shrink- for example, the power generation, aviation and cars. However, instead of a net loss of jobs, efforts must be put into creating green jobs or ‘converting’ old jobs. to produce the hardware for harnessing renewable wind and solar energy- employing skilled engineers and training new engineers for the future.
The Plan, drawn up by workers on the shop floor, contained over 150 ideas with detailed plans. The issue of climate change was not so well known as it is today, but there was a problem of oil supply and the Lucas plan focused extensively on the development of alternative, renewable energy.
Plans included:: Efficient wind-turbines, Solar cells and heat pumps, The “Power Pack” to create cars with 80% less emissions and 50% greater fuel economy, an efficient method for small scale electricity generation and a vehicle like a train but with pneumatic tyres allowing it also to travel on roads.
However, the importance of the Lucas Plan is not the specific technologies and products but in the questions raised about production under capitalism and the vision it offered of a new society in which human needs come before the blind pursuit of profit.
(Rob Marsden & P.Murry “Swords into Ploughshares, Tridents into Turbines: It’s Time for a New Lucas Plan” in Watermelon
Conference Newsletter of Green Left Spring 2016)