Wages error sparked 1970 strike

Somebody messed up in the wages department... and the result was a shattering blow to the massive Pilkington Glass empire - the world’s biggest at the time.

The year was 1970 and a mushrooming wildcat strike which paralysed 11 of the firm’s factories, and put thousands of people out of work, was started by an error in the wage cards of just a handful of workers.

Pilkington Glass strike 1970

Pilkington Glass strike 1970

A company statement read: “Instead of following the normal routine for having errors corrected, a small group of glass carriers stopped work.

“The wage calculation errors were then very quickly converted into an excuse for a few to initiate industrial action - without any attempt to use the normal negotiating network of the Joint Industrial Council.”

From this small beginning, the strike ballooned into the biggest industrial disaster to hit St Helens since the General Strike.

More than 6,000 St Helens workers followed the wildcats’ lead in demanding a £25 a week basic wage.

Lady Pilkington - the wife of the glass millionaire - bore the brunt of the workers’ anger when she turned up unannounced at a rally in Recreation Park.

Wearing a blue fitted coat, she strolled around unnoticed for about half an hour but, as soon as the meeting broke up, she was spotted and the drama began.

An angry mob quickly swarmed around her jeering: “would your old man work for £12 a week?”

She took it on the chin, however, and calmly walked through the crowd before leaving the park.

A huge rally was also held at Knowsley Road.

By the end of the strike action it was estimated that Pilks had lost a staggering £500,000 in lost production.

These fantastic photos were all taken from the Reporter’s archives.