Wednesday, 21 April 2021

Why join a trade union?


Why join a union?


In this podcast episode Unite activist and lay tutor Tan Rashid explains why you should join a union..

A union equality rep - what is it?


In this episode Unite activist and lay tutor Tan Rashid explains his role as an equality rep in the workplace.

Racism - growing up.


Racism – growing up

Tan is a Unite activist and lay tutor, in this episode he discusses the importance of good teachers when faced with racism when growing up!

Monday, 19 April 2021

Rick Sumner - 1933- 2021: a principled working class militant, trade unionist and dedicated fighter for socialism and workers' democracy


Rick Sumner 1933 – 2021

Rick Sumner passed away peacefully at home on Saturday while watching his beloved Manchester City contest the FA Cup semi-final.

Rick was, for several years a miner at Shuttle Eye Colliery in West Yorkshire but also worked variously as a trawlerman fishing in the icy waters of the North Atlantic, as a scaffolder and steel erector on some of Manchester's biggest construction sites, being a key mover behind the Building Workers' Charter, and, later, as a community and grass roots advice worker in Manchester's Moss Side.

His life, throughout, was that of a principled working class militant, trade unionist and dedicated fighter for socialism and workers' democracy. He did not disdain politics and for a period joined the International Socialists.

Immediately after the end of the Great Strike of 1984/85, he and his lifelong comrade and inseparable partner, Christine, saw the need to work energetically to support the more than a thousand striking miners victimised by the National Coal Board.

 In doing so, they established the National Justice For Mineworkers' Campaign (NJMC) to sustain the sacked men and their families and to run a relentless campaign for their reinstatement and restoration of their pension and other rights. Parallel with this, they co-sponsored the annual, always well-attended, memorial meeting in Barnsley each March to commemorate David Jones and Joe Green, the two miners killed during the strike.

 Rick and Chris – and volunteers from the ranks of the sacked miners like Ken Ambler and Keith "Froggy" Frogson who was murdered by a scab – were a firm feature of every labour movement and trade union gathering, with their mining memorabilia stall raising funds for families in truly desperate need.

 From 1986 and until recently, they raised thousands and thousands of pounds for the great cause and earned the support, respect and admiration of the NUM and its activists across the British coalfields. Rick and Chris's commitment to the miners was absolute, it was unbreakable and it never wavered.

 Rick had a peerless reputation in another arena of politics: the battle against racism, antisemitism and fascism. When he and Chris lived in Manchester's Moss Side, they started tenants' organisations and worked with the Campaign Against Racial Discrimination to oppose racist slum landlords. Rick's courage, never flinching from direct physical confrontation with fascists, was a byword and inspiration to many young activists. He also played a key role in anti-fascist intelligence-gathering with anti-fascists who later launched Searchlight magazine.

Rick and Chris, before her death after a long battle against cancer, retired to live by the sea on the Yorkshire coast, close to family members, but never lost contact with comrades and friends, always bidding them a warm welcome. In the circumstances of his retirement, he was able to devote more time to following Manchester City and to working hard to support the local lifeboat service.

 He will be sorely missed by all who had the honour of knowing him. He is irreplaceable.

 Deepest condolences to son Dan and daughter Suzie.

 If you wish to express your condolences directly to Rick's family, his son Dan and daughter Suzie can be reached at:

Paramedic Debbie Wilkinson recalls the successful strike by Unite members at the Yorkshire Ambulance Service between 2013 and 2015


Paramedic Debbie Wilkinson, a long standing Unite member, speaks of the successful two-year (2013-15) battle, including a Leverage Campaign plus twelve days of strike action, the first strike in the NHS since the Ambulance Workers took action a quarter of a century earlier, to prevent Unite being derecognised by the Yorkshire Ambulance Service. For more on the background:-

Two new podcasts on being a union rep & experiences of trade union education are out now


The Unite the Union podcast series continues to expand.


With two new short interviews.

Being a union rep – Jacob Goddard


Experiences of trade union education – Jacob Goddard

Thursday, 15 April 2021

THE LONGEST WAR A chronology of English and British rule in Ireland



A chronology of English and British rule in Ireland


1169             Strongbow invades Ireland followed by reinforcements from King Henry II

1550s onwards         Plantations – native Irish evicted from selected areas and British settler areas established.

1649             Cromwell ruthlessly crushes the rebellion by native Irish and Presbyterian settlers.  Drogheda Massacre kills up to 6,000 Irish.

1791            Theobald Wolfe Tone helps form the Society of United Irishmen, initially a mainly Protestant organisation, with the aim of overthrowing English rule. The rebellion in 1798 was easily defeated.

1801            Act of Union binds Ireland to Britain.

1845-9         One and a half million Irish die of starvation whilst at the same time grain and cattle are exported in record numbers to Britain. Three million people emigrate to escape starving to death.

1885           Home Rule advocates win 85 of 103 seats at the Westminster Parliament.

1912           Home Rule Bill is passed by the House of Commons but falls in the House of Lords.

1913          Edward Carson founds the Ulster Volunteer Force, the first loyalist paramilitary group and received a large cache of German arms the following year.

1916          Easter Uprising is defeated. Connolly and Pearse are, amongst those, executed.

1917         Irish Republican Army (IRA) formed to fight British rule in Ireland.

1918           Sinn Fein (‘Ourselves alone’) win 73 out of 105 Irish seats in Westminster on a Home Rule Platform. Countess Markovitz of Sinn Fein is elected as the first woman MP. Sinn Fein boycott Westminster to establish Dail Eirean (Irish Parliament) in Dublin.

1920           Pogrom against Catholics in Belfast workplaces. Approximately 10,000 men and 1,000 women lose their jobs.

1921           Government of Ireland Act is passed by (British) Parliament to provide for partition of Ireland. Twenty-six counties get a (form of) Home Rule and of the original 9 counties of Ulster then six, containing an inbuilt Protestant majority, remain part of the UK.

1922          Civil War erupts in Southern Ireland. Many are killed.

1934          Viscount Basil Brookeborough, then Agriculture Minister, “if we in Ulster allow Roman Catholics to work on our farms, we are traitors to Ulster…… wherever possible, employ good Protestant lads and lassies.”

1935          Major rioting in Belfast as the Orange Order parades march through Catholic (Nationalist) areas.

1936         Special Powers are introduced into Northern Ireland.

1939         Prevention of Violence (Temporary Provisions) Act introduced. The Irish Republican Army (IRA) declare war on England and begin bombing campaign in England.

1949         Government of Ireland Act passed by Westminster. This formalizes the ‘loyalist veto’ barring unification of Ireland except with the consent of the Northern majority.

1968         Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association and Peoples Democracy organise civil rights marches to oppose discrimination against Catholics including gerrymandering where electoral boundaries were constructed to guarantee Protestant Unionist majorities.  On 5 October 1968 a NICRA march was brutally attacked by the Royal Ulster Constabulary, an almost 100% Protestant policing service, in Derry.

1969         Loyalist and RUC invasion of the Falls Road in Belfast. The Battle of the Bogside leads to Nationalists setting up a no-go area for state forces in Derry. Thousands of Catholics flee to Southern Ireland. Prime Minister Harold Wilson and Home Secretary James Callaghan send in British Army to Northern Ireland and where they are initially warmly welcomed by Catholics.

1970         Sinn Fein splits into Official and Provisional Sections and the former begins an armed campaign in the North.

The Falls curfew in July sees the area sealed off for 36 hours as British Army conduct extensive house-to-house searches that uncovers weapons and ammunition. Four civilians killed and 78 wounded. Some looting by British soldiers. The event was crucial to what happened subsequently.

1971         Ballymurphy massacre results in eleven civilians being killed by the Parachute Regiment.

Internment is introduced. Lasting to 1975 it sees 1,874 Nationalist people and 107 loyalists imprisoned without trial. 

The covert Military Reaction Force of the British Army is believed to be responsible for the deaths of a number of Catholics, only some of whom are known to have an connection to political organisations.

1972        The British Army kill 14 unarmed people on a demonstration in Derry – ‘Bloody Sunday’. Stormont Parliament in Northern Ireland is suspended.

1974        Ulster Council Workers strikes against power sharing with Catholics. Two bombs kill 21 people in Birmingham pubs. Six Irish men arrested and imprisoned. The Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act (PTA) introduced.

Dublin and Monaghan bombings that were carried out by a gang that included British soldiers of the UDR kill 34 Irish civilians.

1975        IRA bombing campaign in London in October/November.

1976        Prisoners political status is withdrawn. Non-jury ‘Diplock’ courts are introduced. This leads to a 94% conviction rate by anyone appearing before the courts. Britain is found guilty of torture at the Strasbourg European Court of Human Rights. Further PTA measures introduced.

1981        Second H-Block Hunger Strike takes place. Hunger striker, Bobby Sands is elected MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone. After his death Owen Carron is elected with an increased majority. Ten hunger strikers die.

1982        Strip searching of Irish Nationalist Women begins in Armagh Prison. A new Assembly is set up in Northern Ireland. Five Sinn Fein delegates are elected but along with other Nationalists they refuse to take their seats.

1983        Trade Unionists for Irish Unity and Independence is formed in Southern Ireland. It has the support of ten trade union general secretaries.

1984        An IRA bomb at the Tory Party conference in Brighton almost kills Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Five people are killed. Fifty-nine Sein Fein councillors are elected in the North and a further 29 are elected in the South in local elections. The temporary nature of the PTA is ended. The Labour Party calls for the Act to be scrapped.

The United Campaign Against Plastic Bullets is founded. The first plastic bullet victim was 10-year-old Stephen Geddis in 1975.

1985         The Anglo-Irish agreement is signed in November. This gives the South a very limited say in what goes on in the North but re-confirms the ‘loyalist veto’ which bars reunification of Ireland except with the consent of the majority in Northern Ireland.

Brian Nelson re-enlists as covert British Intelligence agent with the UDA and in his role as senior intelligence officer he is supplied with clandestine information that allows loyalist armed groups to target Republicans.

1986          The first loyalist is killed by a plastic bullet. Major loyalist intimidation occurs in March during a strike against the Anglo-Irish agreement.

1987          The case of the Birmingham 6 is referred to the Court of Appeal by a Conservative Home Secretary. The 6 were released in 1989.

SAS kills eight IRA members in an ambush.

1988            IRA kill 6 soldiers in a bomb attack.

1989            Solicitor Pat Finucane shot dead by loyalists.

1992            RUC officer kills three people in a Sinn Fein office. Loyalist gunmen kill 5 Catholics in a Belfast bookmaker’s shop.

1993           IRA bomb explodes on Shankhill Road killing 10 people. The Ulster Defence Association kill eight civilians in a pub in Greysteel. IRA bombing in Warrington kills two children.

1994             IRA announce ceasefire. Loyalist groups announce a ceasefire.

1996            IRA bombing in Canary Wharf, London and Manchester.

1997            Second IRA ceasefire.

1998            Good Friday Agreement signed, thus beginning 'The Peace Process.' It states it was 'designed to end sectarian violence in Northern Ireland forever.' However, the contradictions underlying the Agreement and Peace Process are, in reality, designed to manage and contain conflict. The new institutions such as the Northern Ireland Assembly thus reproduce and sustain conflict in the Six Counties. 

2001           Police Service of Northern Ireland set up to replace RUC.

To be continued & expanded.