Here’s one I made earlier (in the Morning Star) when things were different on the shop, and editorial, floors but still Prawn’s in the working game!
“You’ve got to remember the shop steward told the meeting, that we are only prawns in the game”
This now once famous phrase, once put to music is part of the folklore of shop stewardship, shop stewards have been maligned, muttered about and some claimed martyrdom since the shop stewards movement was started during the first world war. Their fame was such that the Boulting brothers made a film starring Peter Sellers proclaiming I’m Alright Jack.
That’s maybe what the Brothers thought
To say there was never a rush to take on the job is an understatement after all the men in the wight coats have only just taken the previous steward away.
When the chair asks for a nominee most remained rigid. But a poor soul finally shuffles his feet and mutters “well if there isn’t” and before you can say I’m alright Jack!,,, the vote is taken and a ship steward is about to be made,
It can’t be described a triumphal start and from then on the steward cannot treat triumph and disaster just the same because there aint much triumph about.
A small number make the ultimate in fame and are seen on TV warding off probing questions from journalists trying to trip up him or her during a major strike that has the nation on the edge of its seat.
Most stewardships go through life dealing with complaints, about chips, canteens, the state of the toilets, low bonuses, low temperatures and fending off foremen with high ambitions,
The scope of the work knows no bounds with pay queries. tax queries, common law and criminal law, and now trade union laws. All part of days work and on really bad day marriage counselling is not unknown.
The ability to take abuse at mass meetings has to be part of a stewards armour. But as one old -time shop steward said “Don’t worry about the shouting when they start to walk towards you; worry!
There is a streak of Independence in the British working class that refuse to accept that work is all. It may be because that after 250 years of the industrial revolution started here that people believe they have done their share.
Mrs Thatcher’s laws aimed at keeping them from at their benches, desks, counters or assemble lines are failing. Foreign gimmicks such as Japanese quality circles aimed at keeping them happy at their benches, desks etc., are failing.
It is not because the British are work-shy, just listen to them talking about work in pubs, it just appears they are determined not to give in to the excesses he bosses want.
As the shop steward said, “We are only prawns in the game .” But many have played in the game and sometimes, won.