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Arthur - how dare you?

May I turn spotlight this months onto Arthur Brace who has spent a lifetime in the finishing industry. In his early, and middle years, Arthur was a |good old boy' working his way up in the industry, specialising in aluminium anodising. The he started to go off the rails - it was quite sad. He began to write books on finishing - they were really rather good, pitched not too high, not too low - just what the practising finisher ought to be reading;. Not satisfied with this, he began running his own training courses. Such was his reputation that he was regularly called to participate in overseas symposia. As if all this were not enough, he began messing around with computers and offered databases for pcb processing or |learning systems' for defects in anodising. Let us overlook his regular visits to the USA in an effort to import the latest and best in masking technology and offer it in the UK. In short, rather than sticking to good old-fashioned ways, Arthur is repeatedly guilty of showing enterprise, initiative, embracing new ideas and new technologies and using his two companies to promote them. These are not qualities we should be encouraging. But now he was finally over-stepped the mark.

In the November issue of |another journal' he has published a searing criticism of the IMF. He has, as President Christie chooses to described any criticism of the IMF, been |Institute Bashing'. Anything that Matthew Coates might say can easily be discounted since he is a mere journalist, not (like Arthur) a card-carrying finisher. To add insult to injury, Arthur has held various offices in the IMF and so speaks with an insider's knowledge.

Matthew Coates is flattered that someone of Arthur's experience and standing has felt it necessary to make many of the same points as have appeared in these columns. However, as one might expect with his detailed knowledge, he makes some telling new comments. Such as whether a body with little more than 1000 members really needs six vice-presidents. Or how appropriate it is to have 26 council members - far more than the Cabinet, for example. (Sounds to me like a sure way of wasting time and getting nowhere). Arthur's critique makes too many good, interesting and, apparently, valid points to repeat here. Ian Christie's anodyne reply in the December issue of |that journal' gives little encouragement that the necessary changes will come from within.

Heaving out the old crystal ball, what do we see? The old sweats of the IMF (or the small core, as Arthur refers to them) are beginning to feel uneasy when they contemplate the future. Maybe they have explicity discussed this - more likely its been exercise in |grunt' communication. There is clearly not much sympathy for merging with a larger body. (As Arthur put it |... membership of at least 25,000 is needed to offer ... full functions...'). Were this to happen, apart from half-dozen of the more switched on, the wheelchair brigade would be thanked - and sent rolling, in any such merger,

So, in all probability subconsciously, the geriatrics of the IMF are moving closer to other small bodies such as MFA, maybe EGA or BSTSA and suchlike. In doing so, they will not be addressing the real nature of the problem - it will be a shaky alliance of weak partners. The flavour of |trade association' will grow stronger - nothing wrong with that per se. But it will insidiously undermine the ideals on which the IMF was founded - learning, training, the science and technology of finishing. Indeed, in the growth of the IMF |Sustaining Membership' which offsets decline in personal membership, we are already seeing the beginning of this trend.

President Christie's reply to Arthur's criticism illustrates one aspect of the IMF perfectly for, tucked away amidst the bromides, is the new that the IMF intend to appoint an education officer. Probably no bad idea - but a fairly major decision for what is now a small body. None of the IMF member I spoke to had any previous inkling of this, thereby underlining the undemocratic nature of the IMF. It wasn't mentioned as a topic on the AGM agenda. Sounds like policy making on the hoof to me. Members (of any organization) like to learn about their organisation from within, rather picking up snippets by change in papers. It is seem as a common courtesy to the membership.

Like Arthur, Matthew Coates has been abused for criticising the sacred IMF, as was |Platelayer' who wrote for so many years in these columns, before him. Few if any of the points were ever taken on board, the geriatrics cling to power. People like Arthur showing concern and a longer perspective should be welcomed. In fact, pearl that he is, he will be excreted. Progressive companies - yes, even in our industry - encourage worker participation, suggestions from the shop-floor, speaking up. The IMF, in contrast, has a little of these as is possible. Are member even told about voting for Council membership or what issues are tabled for Council meeting? Perhaps they all vote for each other, year after year. The AGM - a natural forum for this sort of discussion - is (deliberately?) set up as a barren and unattractive formality.

The facts are that we have been through this many times before in the past 10 years or more. The fact is that the IMF membership continues its remorseless decline. The fact is that the |inner core' of the ageing self-selected continue to run this body as if it were theirs spurning any suggestions that rank-and-file membership be involved...

I'm sure Arthur would be happy to send a copy of his article to those interested. Contact him at Stonehouse (0453 822444, fax 822736). The phone IMF Hon Sec General - Ron Read - and bend his ear. Our secret sources tell us that Ron is far from happy with the way things are, and the way they're going. If enough people do something like this, it will have an effect. If you don't, your apathy will be playing into the old codgers hands and you'll deserve what you get - which will be, surprise, the same as they get from their doctors - |the mixture as before'.

Troubled times!

If I were asked to name two areas of business which I would not care to be in, they might well be electroplating and property. You see what I mean! As it happens, that's precisely where Radiant Metal Finishing are positioned. Pre-tax losses for year ending February 1991 deepened to 169,000 [pounds] from 71,000 [pounds] in the previous year, with turnover showing an equally marked decline from 1.88 [pounds] million down to 808,000 [pounds]. One of the attractive features of the company, which has a plating plant in London's East End, is its retained loss, after taxation, of 169,000 [pounds] (1990 was 58,000 [pounds]). I wonder what other attractive features it has? There are so few stock-market quoted finishing companies that when such results are announced, it is always interesting. Another such company - albeit larger and more buoyant - is the Norman Hay Group. Its share price is underpinned, many would have you believe, by its ownership of property close to London (Heathrow). I don't know the details, but that sort of property sound like a good long term punt to me!
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Title Annotation:Arthur Brace's criticism of the International Monetary Fund
Author:Coates, Matthew
Date:Mar 1, 1992
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