13 FEBRUARY 1959, Page 8

RELATIONS BETWEEN the Electrical Trades Union and the press continue

strained : the fact that most newspapers are very unhappy that one of the nation's more important unions should be led by Communists produces inevitable stresses. I notice that the threatened strike at Ford's works in Dagenham last week over the emotive subject of '100 per cent. trade union membership' was the occasion of a fresh outburst of ill-feeling. Mr. Frank Foulkes, the president of the union, who is normally less coldly formal in his relations with reporters than Communists usually are, met almost all questions with an unyielding repetition of the phrase: That is the end of the press state- ment.' His neck seemed to have stiffened under the rough handling his union had had in some papers earlier in the week. On Tuesday the Express carried a story headed 'Unions turn on the Reds : ETU bid to close Ford's will fail,' and the Mail followed on Wednesday with 'TUC steps in to stop Ford strike threat.' Mr. Foulkes denied on Thursday that what had forced him to negotiate was that the other unions at Ford's were hostile to him. He came to an agreement with the management in the morning that he would regard two electricians who were behind with their union dues as members still, and before the day was out he had obtained completed membership applica- tion forms from the two other non-members. The strike was then called off, but Mr. Foulkes still got his little thrust in at the press conference when the settlement was announced. Mr. Leslie Blakeman, Ford's labour relations manager, said that every- one was pleased that there would be no strike, but Mr. Foulkes observed that the only people who would be disappointed were the press. He was not willing to say then in so many words that the two men had joined the union, and on the Friday morning the Alai! reported this fact. The head- ing on its report read : 'Foulkes climbs down on Ford strike.' The Express was more aggressive : `ETU strike bid is big flop.' In this rather un- dignified little skirmish, the serious issues behind the dispute were somewhat neglected, and I think it a pity—and a possible source of public bewilder- ment—that the ETU and the reporters still feel that they cannot get a square deal from each other.