1976 – The Lucas Plan

In 1976, a small committee of workers at a UK arms company produced an alternative plan for the company that would see it producing socially-useful goods rather than weapons. The historic plan was never fully realized but it showed the potential for workers to go beyond negotiating working conditions to advancing a new solidarity economy.

In 1976, in response to threats of job cuts, workers at the Lucas Aerospace factory formed a committee made of workers at all 15 factories in the UK to develop an Alternative Corporate Plan that could secure jobs. The committee identified 150 socially-useful products that the factory’s technologies and workers skills could produce, including medical equipment, renewable energy technologies and hybrid power systems for cars and buses.

Although the workers won initial support from Tony Benn at the Department of Transport, the company refused to diversify. Lack of political will by the government to use its public purchasing power to put pressure on the company meant the plan was never fulfilled. Nevertheless, the plan set a precedent that continues to inspire, most notably efforts by the National Union of Steelworkers of South Africa in the 2000s who have developed similar proposals for a green ‘Climate Jobs’ transition.

Forty years on, many of the products put forward the workers are now mainstream. Two examples (there are many others) are the production of hybrid power packs by most vehicle manufacturers and the massive growth in wind turbines, both onshore and offshore, and their contribution to renewable energy needs.