Friday, 26 September 2014

120 years ago tomorrow: Celtic 2 Sunderland 3 match report

27th   September  1894                                                                             Friendly Match 

               GLASGOW CELTIC   2                                   SUNDERLAND   3                           
                      (McMahon (2))                                (Campbell 5,Wilson10,Hannah 14)

Referee Mr Dicken of Wishaw                                                               Attendance 15,000 

Celtic:- McArthur, Reynolds, Dunbar, Maltby, Curran, McEleney, Madden, Blessington, Cassidy, McMahon, Divers.

Sunderland:-- Doig, Meehan, McNeill, Dunlop, Auld, Wilson,  Goodchild, Harvie, Campbell, Hannah(D), Scott.

Sunderland visited Glasgow as the guests of Celtic Football Club and with it being a public holiday in the City a crowd of 15,000 assembled at Parkhead. The weather was splendid with scarcely a breath of wind. The home side did not field a strong team and Sunderland themselves fielded 5 reserves. Sunderland won the toss and Celtic kicked off to rush down and force a corner in the first half minute. The home side remained in Sunderland territory for a few minutes but then Scott dashed away and Reynolds was forced to kick into touch.

Sunderland continued to press and a mistake by Curran let in Campbell to shoot them ahead in the 5th minute. Encouraged by their success Sunderland forced the pace and Wilson worked an opening to get in a long shot that completely baffled McArthur to put Sunderland two up after 10 minutes. Celtic were having a bad time of it with their weak defence having a gruelling time from the sharp Sunderland forwards. Hannah scored a 3rd goal for the visitors before the quarter hour had elapsed. 

At 3-0 down things were looking bad for the home side who were sorely missing Doyle. Good forward play from the Celts enabled them to get close to the Sunderland goal where Doig saved a hard shot at the expense of a corner. McMahon reduced the home side’s arrears from the flag kick. Play became more even and occasionally Celtic managed to test Doig with McMahon almost scoring again. Blessington on the home right wing was troubling the Sunderland full backs and repeatedly excited the crowd with some fine runs.

Celtic pressed hard and after an exciting passage of play Meehan was forced to kick away hurriedly. Doig then made a splendid save to keep his goal intact. The game was now very interesting and Celtic were busy round the Sunderland goal when halftime arrived. Sunderland were first to show in the 2nd half and McArthur was given several stinging shots to save and he dealt with them splendidly. Sunderland forced a corner that was cleared by the home defence. Celtic retaliated and for some minutes the Sunderland defence were given an anxious time.

The game quietened down considerably with the play mainly in the midfield. Hannah, Campbell and Harvie were playing well together for Sunderland and troubled the Celtic keeper no end. A quick rush from Goodchild caused great anxiety to the home defence but Reynolds got the ball away. A spell of long kicking was indulged in between the backs with Wilson very prominent. Celtic were being held quite easily by the visiting defence and rarely caused Doig any trouble who was virtually a spectator at this stage.

Celtic had a look in following a free kick but McMahons final attempt was too high. The home side came back again and Doig was twice called into action to clear shots. Eventually Celtic were rewarded for their endeavours when McMahon beat Doig with a low shot from the left. This goal brought Celtic to life and with the deficit now only 1 goal Sunderland were kept busy defending. Doig was tested to the full and not found wanting as the home side swarmed around the Sunderland goal.

There was a dash about the home side which was totally lacking in the 1st half but with both defences standing firm the game ended with a win for Sunderland   

                                                                                                                    (Ncl Dly Chron)

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Plaque to Peasants Revolt, Tower Hamlets

Taken from Rebel Road of UNITE Education at

Sadly this is now long gone as it was quietly removed - much like the removal of the Chartist mural in Newport in 2013 - by the local council. (see links below for more on this) 

The mural was designed by Ray Walker, who tragically died young, and was sited 
in Bow Common Lane, London E.3 at the junction of Burdett Road. The Lane now forms part of Mile End Park.

The mural commemorates the 600th year anniversary of the Peasants Revolt. The unveiling was part of a weekend of celebrations by trade councils and union groups to mark the 600 year anniversary. The peasants army camped at Mile End in 1381 before marching into London.

Ray Walker was one of the artists who completed the Battle of Cable Street mural and many others in east London.

Photographer David Hoffman has kindly given his permission for the images to be used.

Many thanks to Jim Thatcher, UNITE member and blacklisted construction worker, for the information that appears here and for David Hoffman for allowing the use of his photographs. 

Bristol Bus Boycott plaque

                                                                                                              Taken from Rebel Road at Unite Education

Bristol Bus Boycott plaque, Marlborough Street bus station, Bristol 

A plaque that commemorates the heroic struggle against racism on Bristol’s buses was unveiled at Marlborough Street bus station in August 2014. 

In 1963 the Bristol Bus Company’s refusal to recruit black people as drivers or conductors was supported by Transport and General Workers Union (TGWU) members who threatened to bring the buses to a halt if black workers were employed on bus crews.

This colour bar was brought to a glorious end after four young West Indians, Prince Brown, Audley Evans, Roy Hackett and Owen Henry, along with British born Paul Stephenson, set up the West Indian Development Council. 

The 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott inspired them, when Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger. Black Bristolians and white anti-racists, including Bristol East Labour MP Tony Benn, boycotted the bus company who thus lost income and was badly damaged by the publicity the campaign generated. 

After four months the bus company announced it would it was ending its bar on ‘coloured labour’ thus forcing white trade unionists to reassess their attitudes and begin working alongside their black colleagues. 

The successful struggle also helped inspire the passing two years later in Parliament of the Race Relations Act that outlaws racial discrimination. 

In 1986, Madge Dresser wrote an account of events in 1963. This is at:-

In 2013, Unite, as the successor to the TGWU, issued an apology: - 

Many thanks to Cheryl Nelson, UNITE rep at AXA Bristol office, for sending in the photograph of the plaque and suggesting including it on Rebel Road. 

For more on this historic struggle see:-

Madge Dresser’s book has been republished by Bookmarks with financial support from a number of trade union branches including Bristol Unite Health, Bristol Unite General services and Bristol Finance and Legal. 

More staff needed to tackle tax abuse

From Big Issue in the North magazine, please buy a copy when you see a seller. 

The government should look closer to home than offshore havens if it seriously intends tackling tax evasion, says a tax campaign group.
Two new consultation papers on tackling offshore tax evasion using both civil and criminal deterrents are running until 31 October. From next year tax havens such as Jersey and Guernsey have agreed to supply Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) with details of UK residents holding accounts there.
Richard Murphy of the Tax Justice Network (TJN) welcomed the possible use of civil proceedings as well as criminal ones.
“This is great progress in situations where establishing criminal guilt is difficult, cases are complex and the time and costs needed for a successful prosecution are hefty,” he said. “Only in extreme cases involving stacks of cash, someone well known and an accountant, banker or lawyer are criminal proceedings likely.
“The government is correct to employ a dual criminal and civil approach to tackle tax evasion abroad, which we estimate at £5-6 billion annually.”
But this is considerably less than the £47 billion that TJN estimates is being evaded in the UK annually.
Murphy called for HMRC to be given more staff and resources to tackle evasion.
“We need 20,000 more HMRC employees. They will recoup much more than their wages if the government follows its overseas approach and instructs UK banks to tell HMRC which companies have accounts here and who is self-employed.
“With that one simple change then tax evasion would largely disappear, as a lot of people would know the data is there to be examined and they will pay up.”
The government has introduced a General Anti- Abuse Rule to tackle tax avoidance but this has been criticised by the TUC and others for being too weak. They say it will allow much tax abuse to continue, and are also concerned that the rule will be supervised by a new panel likely to be recruited from the tax departments of big business advisory firms – which were involved in drawing up complex tax avoidance schemes.

This week Murphy’s report for the PCS, the civil servants union, will argue that the numbers employed by HMRC should move back towards the 95,000 figure of 2005, when today it is falling towards 50,000.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Dutch football magazine review of ORIGINS OF THE FOOTBALL LEAGUE

It got 5 out of 5! 

Voor de Anglofiele voetbalfan vormde zaterdag 8 september 2013 een historisch hoogtepunt: het was exact 125 jaar geleden (1888) dat er voor het eerst in competitieverband werd gevoetbald in Engeland, Home of Football. Voor de ware liefhebber eerst de uitslagen: Preston North End-Burnley 5-2, Bolton Wanderers-Derby County 3-6, Everton- Accrington 2-1, Stoke City-West Bromwich Albion 0-2, Wolverhampton Wanderers-Aston Villa 1-1. Notts County en Blackburn Rovers kwamen nog niet in actie. Dan zijn meteen de clubs genoemd die zich tot de Founding Fathers van de Football League mogen rekenen.

Er werd in Engeland al vele jaren achtereen vriendschappelijk en om de beker gevoetbald. Bestuurslid William McGregor van Aston Villa vond het de hoogste tijd een serieuze competitie op te zetten. Hij schreef vijf clubs aan (Blackburn, Bolton, Preston, WBA en zijn eigen club) en zo kwam het balletje aan het rollen.
De Britse journalist en sportschrijver Mark Metcalf greep de 125ste verjaardag van de competitie aan om het eerste seizoen zo minutieus mogelijk te reconstrueren. Hij verrichtte monnikenwerk voor zijn boek The Origins of the Football League - The First Season 1888/89’. Metcalf wist dankzij archiefonderzoek alle krantenverslagen van deze jaargang boven water te tillen. Bovendien herschreef hij de historie.
Tot aan de verschijning van zijn boek werd alom aangenomen dat Gershom Cox van Aston Villa het allereerste competitiedoelpunt scoorde. De eerste tragiek is dat het een eigen doelpunt betrof, nu verdwijnt zijn naam ook nog uit de geschiedenisboekjes. Metcalf ontdekte dat Kenny Davenport van Bolton Wanderers de eerste was. Gemeten naar het aantal speelminuten van de wedstrijd klopte het dat Cox de primeur had, de 30ste minuut tegenover Davenport de 47ste. Echter, uit research van de auteur bleek dat de wedstrijd Bolton-Derby een half uur eerder was begonnen; om drie uur in plaats van half vier. Het is een feit dat andere voetbalhistorici over het hoofd zagen.

Davenport scoorde dus om 15.47 uur. De own goal van Cox verdween om klokslag 16.00 uur tegen de touwen.
Het boek is eenvoudig van opzet: per competitierondje een hoofdstuk met daarin het verslag, de doelpuntenmakers en andere bijzonderheden. Aansluitend volgt het overzicht van de FA Cup, The Home International Championship (de interlands tussen Engeland, Schotland, Wales en Ierland) en - ook heel knap - portretten van vrijwel alle spelers uit het eerste seizoen. Het is fascinerend om te lezen.

Zo vernemen we dat Davenport een snelle linksbinnen was, international, goaltjesdief en geboren op steenworp afstand van Pikes Lane; de voetbalveste van Bolton. Cox passeerde tijdens zijn carrière (102x competitie en FA Cup) wel zijn eigen doelman maar nooit die van de tegenstander. (René Otterloo) 

International Brigade memorial plaque, Perth

The memorial plaque on Perth’s North Inch Close is was erected and unveiled by Perthshire International Brigade Memorial Fund on 5 June 2010. Ten volunteers from Perthshire – Eddie Brown, William Gilmour, John Gordon, Hugh MacKay, Robert Malcolm, James Moir, Annie Murray, George Murray, Tom Murray, and George Steele – volunteered to serve with the International Brigades in Spain. 

UNITE played a significant role in ensuring the original plan to mount a magnificent piece of artwork was successful. 

The inscription on the plaque is words by poet and son of Perth, William Soutar: “Even as blossoms fall circling about a tree our deeds within our world define our world.” 

For more information see: -

Many thanks to Tippermuir Books Limited for sending in the photograph of the plaque. 

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

International Brigades statue, Belfast

International Brigades statue, Belfast                      

The International Brigades who fought in Spain in the 1930s are commemorated with a statue in Writers’ Square Belfast. Designed by Anto Brennan, it was erected by the International Brigades Commemoration Committee and unveiled on 13 October 2007 by Bob Doyle, a member of the Brigades and a life long militant. Accompanying Bob was Jack Jones, President of the IBMT and former general secretary of the TGWU and who also fought in the International Brigades, and Jack Edwards, a Liverpool volunteer. 78 men born in Northern Ireland participated in the 1936-39 Spanish Civil War. At least 18 families of Irish veterans were present at the unveiling. 

For more details see: - 

For more on Bob Doyle see his obituary at

Many thanks to Richie Browne, Unite regional co-ordinating officer, for this photograph.

Friday, 5 September 2014

The Diggers return to Wigan on 13 September

Original article is at:-

An opportunity to discover a proud tradition of English radicalism whilst having fun is guaranteed for anyone attending the fourth Wigan Diggers’ Festival on Saturday 13 September. 

The Diggers sprang up around the English Civil War in the seventeenth century. They aimed to use the earth to reclaim the freedom they felt had been partly lost through the Norman Conquest. 

Seizing and owning land ‘in common’ could create a classless society where property and wages are abolished. 

In 1649, small Diggers’ groups defied landlords and the army by settling on common land and growing crops. Supporters travelled nationally attempting to rally supporters. 

The movement was ultimately defeated when violent opposition from landowners saw Diggers beaten, their houses burnt down and legal restraints applied to their occupation. 

The main Diggers propagandist was Gerrard Winstanley, born in Wigan in 1609 and who died on 10 September 1676. 

In 1621 Wiganers dug up common land in a successful access struggle and it is believed that this subsequently inspired Winstanley when he moved to London in 1630. 

Despite being one of the great English radicals, Winstanley was largely unrecognised in his hometown for many years. 

Inspired by hearing Billy Bragg sing The World Turned Upside Down, Stephen Hall, Leigh UNITE branch member, persuaded other local trade union activists to organise an initial Diggers’ Festival in 2011. Its success has been built on in each subsequent year. 

Six local UNITE branches as well as the North West region of the union are backing the 2014 festival. This will take place in the Wigan town centre Wiend area, where there are advanced plans to rename the garden area in Winstanley’s honour.  

On 13 September, actor John Graham-Davies will again perform as Winstanley whilst TV documentary filmmaker David Malone will talk on how the Diggers leader influenced the radical thinkers of the French and American Revolutions. 

There will be a puppet story show on the Diggers - described by Tony Benn as “the first true Socialists” – and an all day children’s arts and craft area. 

In addition there will be 40 plus food, book and other stalls along with the popular ‘Occu-pie Wigan’ beer tent. 

“We are very keen for as many people as possible to come along and join in the fun whilst commemorating a courageous man who influenced the later development of the labour movement in this country,” said Stephen Hall. 

All events are free and take place between 11.00am and 9.30pm in the Wiend area of Wigan Town Centre. 

The Diggers Festival Committee has awarded actress Maxine Peake this year’s ‘Gerard Winstanley Spade Award.’ She is the second winner with the first one presented to Tony Benn last year. “It is in recognition of never having lost touch with her working class roots, speaking out against the government’s austerity measures and supporting progressive causes such as the Peterloo Massacre Commemoration and the Working Class Movement Library in Salford,” said Stephen Hall.  

Power in the union and a picket line!

Optare workers in Unite were on strike in May and when a Unite member 
from Tyneside Safety Glass turned up to make a delivery he wasn't crossing any
picket line! A few weeks later workers at Tyneside Safety Glass were
themselves on strike and succeeded in winning a wage increase in excess of the rate of inflation. 
At Optare, strikers won concessions from management before returning to work. 

All photographs copyright Mark Harvey 


Intimidation will not stop ambulance members’ resolve 
Photograph is copyright Mark Harvey

Eighteen months since first taking strike action and UNITE members at Yorkshire Ambulance Service (YAS) are refusing to be intimidated by their management in a battle over patient safety, union de-recognition and pay and conditions. 

YAS are making £46 million cuts over five years. Facing £300 a month pay cuts, trained support technicians who work with paramedics are being replaced with emergency care assistants (ECA) with just six weeks training. With patient care seriously compromised, Unite members took strike action in April 2013. 

Management reacted by re-employing previously fired employees, permitting the use of private ambulances with less qualified staff and de-recognising Unite despite the union putting forward a well researched alternative financial plan. 

 As predicted, working conditions and patient safety, which go hand-in-hand, have deteriorated since last year. Paramedics and technicians are regularly working in excess of 13-hour shifts without even having time for a meal break. 

“We are all exhausted. Last month I missed 20 meal breaks. Frequently I finish work an hour later than scheduled. Working with unqualified staff makes your job more difficult as you are not only working with the patient but their relatives in some very stressful situations,” explained paramedic Debbie Wilkinson, Unite YAS branch secretary.

No-one is blaming the ECA’s for the current situation and technician Les Muir, Unite rep at Willerby ambulance depot, is concerned that “Eighteen year olds with no life experience are facing some horrendous situations that may later come back to haunt them. 

“The fact they are being employed on emergencies - increasingly on their own without a lead technician - is scary.” 

With management having refused to engage in positive talks, YAS Unite members have continued their battle to maintain a top quality service by taking regular days of action over the last eighteen months. 

The latest was two six-hour walkouts on 29 August and 2 September. Prior to the action staff were told they would be banned from overtime shifts if they participated and also have double-time payments withheld from work already completed.

“They are trying to intimidate people,” said clinical supervisor Martin Dobson, the Unite rep at the Wakefield ambulance depot.

“And if they keep their promise it will make it doubly difficult for the trust to meet the eight minute response time for the most serious, life threatening calls especially as much of the service now depends on overtime work.” 

More than 30 per cent of seriously ill and injured people are currently failing to obtain 999 help within eight minutes across Yorkshire. 

Despite the threats, a large majority of YAS Unite members were on strike on September 2, joining the battle to preserve an essential service. At Menston, Bradford, just one out of the twelve ambulance staff in Unite stayed at work.

“You have to stand up for what you know is right,” said Debbie Wilkinson. “Management should admit their proposed redesign of the ambulance service has failed and come back round the table and negotiate properly.”

April 2013 was the first time UNITE members at YAS took strike action - photograph copyright Mark Harvey 

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Giroscope spins on

From the Big Issue in the North magazine, please buy a copy when you see a seller 

Former prisoners who are rebuilding their lives by working at a Hull housing project are restoring rundown properties for those in housing need.
Now a charity, Giroscope began as a worker’s co-operative in 1985 with one of its founders, Martin Newman, still in charge. The ethos of buying up dilapidated properties, renovating them and renting them out remains the same.
There are nine paid members of staff and two apprentices working alongside volunteers, who get on the job training. Their efforts in improving Hull’s housing have recently been recognised with a Queen’s Voluntary Service Award.
Many volunteers are former prisoners. Nick Brackstone, aged 29, served six years before being released in 2013. He had previously worked as a labourer but found paid employment difficult to obtain. Keen to stay out of trouble, earlier this year he took up his probation officer’s proposal and volunteered to work three days a week at Giroscope.
“I needed to stop sitting at home, demonstrate my timekeeping is good and also learn things like painting, taking down walls and plasterboarding that will help me find paid work,” he said. “I am aiming to apply for my Construction Skills Certificate Scheme card to prove I have the training and qualifications required to carry out a certain job.”
After initially volunteering, former long-term prisoner Les Stratford has found paid work
with Giroscope as a site support worker. His recovery from drug and alcohol abuse means he can empathise with many of Giroscope’s volunteers. As a refrigeration and air conditioning engineer with plumbing qualifications he is able to pass on essential building skills.
“I am thankful of being given an opportunity to rebuild my life by working with and helping former prisoners like myself rebuild rundown properties that are rented out to those in need,” he said.
“I am now revisiting prison to speak to inmates and pass on the message that you can move on and have a good life when you are released.”
Giroscope has 80 properties on its books. It borrows money against its existing housing stock to buy new properties.
Giroscope rents are similar to those charged by the local authority. The organisation is keen to ensure no tenant has to supplement their rent from benefits.
Some have held tenancies for 20 years. On only one occasion has someone been compulsorily evicted.
Giroscope architect Caroline Gore-Booth said; “We have young families in properties, a couple from a hostel has just moved into one, migrant workers and volunteers. The main reason people apply is because their landlord refuses to undertake repairs.”
A tour of Giroscope homes in a city that has more 6,000 empty properties was enlivened by Newman’s enthusiasm. “Organisations that begin with a small group of radical people usually fall out or become part of a larger housing organisation,” he said. “Not so Giroscope.
“We are much more professional. We don’t call ourselves anarchists or organise demonstrations but I think we still have the same attitude of mutual support.”

Nick Branstone and Les Stratford 

Care workers keep up strike to overturn 35pc cut in wages

From Big Issue in the North magazine, please buy a copy when you see a seller. 
Fifty experienced care workers in Doncaster who look after people with learning disabilities have so far taken 48 days strike action this year. Last year, the former NHS workers were transferred from the public to the private sector when Care UK won the £6.7 million three- year contract from Doncaster Council to run community care services for their clients in the South Yorkshire town.
Since the 1990s public authorities have consistently transferred their care services for people in their own homes to the private sector and today just 11 per cent remains public. Care UK, which nationally employs 20,000 workers, earns 88 per cent of its annual £650 million income from public funds.
The newly appointed private sector firm sought to make £1.5 million savings from around 200 workers by proposing wage cuts of 35 per cent for its staff and paying 100 new workers
a lower rate of £7 an hour immediately. Many of those on strike have built up professional qualifications for looking after people with learning disabilities but not so the newcomers.
Faced with such massive cuts in their £21,000 a year average income the workers pushed their union, Unison, to ballot them for industrial action after they refused to sign new contracts offering them worse terms and conditions. The result among the 93 staff balloted was overwhelmingly in favour of taking strike action starting in March.
In early August the remaining strikers, the numbers of which have dropped as some people have found alternative employment and others have returned to work, took a further 14 days action.
The strike has been maintained by significant donations, mainly from fellow trade unionists, totalling over £100,000. As a result strikers get roughly the equivalent of what the new staff get paid daily.
Strikers have been active in publicising their case and picketing outside the Doncaster offices of Care UK has taken place each strike day.
‘Privatisation of NHS’
Senior support worker Roger Hutt has been in his current job for 34 years and it is the first time he has been on strike.
He said: “What has been done to us is privatisation of the NHS and everyone suffers as a result. I have put my professional career into helping people with learning disabilities and we have improved their lives.
“The work is mentally and physically demanding and you should be properly rewarded as a result. We understand that if the contract had been kept within the NHS there may have been some reductions but nothing like as great as those proposed.”
Angela Shay exceeds Hutt’s service by two years. Soon to retire she was devastated at taking strike action but said: “We have no alternative as the people I work with are like an extended family and they require dedicated staff to work and support them. I am not attacking the new workers but it is just a job for them – the low wages and the lack of training will ensure that is the case.”

Angela Shay and Kevin Horne 

Thirty years ago, Kevin Horne was on strike for a year as part of the miners’ strike. He was arrested at Orgreave in 1984 and later had the charges against him dropped. When he was made redundant from the pit he started working in his current post 19 years ago.
He said: “I am proud of being part of a group of workers who have made it possible for people with learning disabilities to live in the community. I have worked with the same group of boys as they have grown up and they have become part of my extended family.”
Care in the Community was a controversial policy started under the Thatcher government in 1983 that led to disabled people being treated and cared for in their own homes rather than in an institution. In the past people with learning disabilities could expect to live much of their lives in an asylum. Some strikers fear there may be a return to the past as it may be cheaper to keep people locked up.
The Care UK strikers face a difficult struggle. Their local MP, Ed Miliband, Labour leader, has never been on the picket line or spoken alongside them. Unison has no plans to extend the strike as attempting to bring out other workers in solidarity would come up against the anti- trade union laws.
Care UK says any pay increases are unaffordable and insists it has protected the pension rights of workers transferring from the NHS. It also says it has protected jobs at a time when funding from the council for the service has been cut.
Cash settlement
Elsewhere in the north, workers at Optare, the Leeds-based coach and bus manufacturer, went on strike in June after being told the company intended shutting its Sherburn site for two weeks during the height of the summer season when family holidays cost almost double. Members of Unite, the biggest union in Britain, won a compromise deal of a one-week shutdown this year, a cash settlement and an extra half-day holiday.

Photograph courtesy of Mark Harvey of ID8 photography

In Gateshead on the massive Team Valley Industrial Estate, over 100 Unite members at Tyneside Safety Glass were on strike for three weeks in June and July before their employer offered an inflation-beating pay rise, dropped plans to increase the working week and reinstated a sacked worker.
Unite is hoping that the success will encourage non-unionists to consider becoming trade union members. Trade union membership levels in England fell by 595,000 between 1995 and 2013, although across the north density levels remain relatively high in some regions, with South Yorkshire, Merseyside and the North East all above 35 per cent amongst those who are employed.
Pay cut
The issue of pay has also motivated hundreds of thousands of trade unionists to take strike action this year. On 10 July teachers, civil servants, firefighters and council workers walked out for the day following disputes over pay, pensions and service cuts. Firefighters have since taken industrial action over pensions.
Striking public sector workers - copyright Mark Harvey 

A further strike by public sector workers has been called for 14 October. Those taking action claim they have suffered a 20 per cent real-terms pay cut since 2010. With below inflation pay rises of just 1 per cent being offered by their employers this year they hope to persuade the government to increase their wages. There is no indication this is going to happen.
By October, Care UK strikers will have again taken strike action after they unanimously voted to take a further three weeks away from work. Horne will not be participating.
“It is only because I am retiring as I could never, ever cross a picket line – a principle once universal among working people but which is less so today,” he said. “Strikes are a last resort but I do not regret taking part in either the miners’ or the Care UK strike.”


Tuesday, 2 September 2014

International Brigade Memorial Sculpture – Jubilee Gardens, London

For much, much more on labour movement statues and plaques go to rebel road at UNITE education. 

The International Brigade memorial was unveiled by Michael Foot on 5 October 1985, one day after the 49th anniversary of the Battle of Cable Street in east London in which Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts, assisted by the Metropolitan Police, were prevented from marching by anti-fascist groups. It was to prove a mortal blow for fascism in Britain. However in Spain a much greater battle had started on 17 July 1936 when General Franco’s nationalists took up arms against the democratically elected Spanish Republic. Franco could count on the military support of fascist Germany and Italy. Anti-fascists internationally recognised that this was a struggle with massive international implications and many – estimated at over 30,000 - were prepared to volunteer and fight on the republican side. Many were killed in an ultima
tely unsuccessful fight that in its aftermath paved the way for the Second World War and saw Franco rule Spain until his death in 1975. 

The memorial sculpture by Ian Walters is in bronze. 

The inscription on the front reads: INTERNATIONAL BRIGADE. In honour of over 2,100 men and women volunteers who left these shores to fight side by side with the Spanish people in their heroic struggle against fascism, 1936-1939.” 

The inscription on the reverse side of the plinth reads: “This memorial, unveiled by Michael Foot, 5th October 1985, was made possible by the support of many democratic organizations, individuals and the Greater London Council.” 

The inscription on the left side is taken from Byron’s ‘Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage’ and reads: ‘Yet Freedom! Yet thy banner, torn, but flying.
Streams like the thunder-storm against the wind.”

The inscription on the right side reads: “They went because their open eyes could see no other way.” It is from the poem Volunteer by C. Day Lewis in 1938. 

For more details see:- 

Many thanks to Jim Thatcher, UNITE member and blacklisted construction worker, for sending in his photograph of the sculpture. 

Monday, 1 September 2014

A time for youth at Durham Miners' Gala

A time for youth

Mark Metcalf attended the recent Durham Miners’ Gala and has some ideas that he hopes will help it survive many more years

Taken from Coldtype magazine.

It was great to see an article about the Durham Miners’ Gala in the last issue of ColdType.
Despite the growing numbers for whom this annual event cannot be missed, it constantly fails to attract the attention of the mainstream media and the BBC and, as a result, is little known about overseas. It would be brilliant if more overseas visitors, especially trade union delegations, attended.

In recent years the gala has expanded with a whole series of events that start in the days leading up to the Saturday march and rally.

This year, UNITE the union commissioned the Red Ladder Theatre Company to present a musical play about the 1984/85 miners’ strike. “We’re Not Going Back” – was well received when it made its debut in the main council chamber of the truly magnificent Durham Miners’ Association (DMA) headquarters at Redhills, where the DMA and UNITE last year established a welfare and employment rights advice support centre, which has also been the base for significant campaigning initiatives against government welfare cuts.

The number of new miners’ lodge and community banners that are made across County Durham communities throughout the year also demonstrates that the meeting itself is not just one day in the calendar.

For someone like myself who first attended the Big Meeting in the 1960s and has returned on close to forty occasions it is truly uplifting that, despite having no working miners for over two decades, the gala not only exists but also is getting bigger. There are moments when taking in the whole scene throughout Durham City and on the Racecourse by the River Wear almost brings me to tears so deep are the emotions and the connections with my forefathers and their wives, not forgetting my mates who worked down the pits and all those who fought so heroically in 1972, 1974 and 1984 to defend their terms and conditions, and ultimately, the communities I was brought up in.

It is not only the fact that there are no working miners that makes the continued existence of the gala something of a miracle. Despite being left without any memberIship contributions, the gala organisers, the Durham Miners’ Association (DMA) has continued to represent at industrial tribunals those former miners made unwell by harsh working conditions.

But with the DMA having lost a lengthy, highly expensive court case in defence of former miners suffering from osteoarthritis on grounds that the three-year time limit for claims had been exceeded, the bill of £2.2 million naturally placed doubts about the future of the gala, which costs in excess of £60,000 a year. Friends of the Durham

Miners’ Gala was launched last year and asks people to make a minimum donation of £2 a month or £24 a year. Over a thousand people, including myself and some friends I have persuaded, have so far signed up. Meantime, major unions – UNITE particularly – have contributed generously to the costs. All this demonstrates that there is a determination to ensure the future of this important trade union and labour movement event.
Photograph courtesy of Mark Harvey of ID8 photography. 

Changes needed

However, I feel there are a number of things that need changing and adopting that would make the gala even more important. The first is its appearance and by which I mean at times it no longer appears to be a miners’ gala. This is because most of the miners’ lodge banners and their accompanying banners are first on the cobbled Durham City streets and they go through in a block. 

Then the various individual trade union blocks from such as UNISON, NUT, PCS and the RMT go through separately. I feel it would be much better if these blocks were broken down with the miners’ lodge banners intertwined with those of other trade unions. By doing this then anyone turning up would never be able to lose sight of the fact that first and foremost this event is historically connected with the miners’ of Durham and Northumberland, something that must never be allowed to be forgotten.

That said there is a clear need for another just as important message to come though on the day and that must be JOIN A TRADE UNION AND GET ORGANISED.

In particular, there are tens of thousands of young people of working age who attend the gala. Speaking to some of them quickly illustrates they know virtually nothing about trade unions. In my day you left school, started work and joined the union but that is not so today although the North East of England remains an area where over 35% of those in work are in a union, a figure significantly above the UK average. “It is something my dad was in.” “There isn’t one where I work.” “No one has mentioned joining to me.” “I’d get sacked if I joined one.” All these and more were said to me when I spoke to some youngsters at this year’s gala.

With trade union density among young workers aged between 16 and 24 down at 8 per cent then it is clear that much work needs to be done, especially when it is known that they are working in workplaces and sectors where there is no union to join. Whilst there are often many references from the speaker’s platform as to how terrible things are for young people there is little attempt to engage with those that are there. Certainly the range of speakers themselves is often much, much older and none is a young trade union member who may have unionised and organised a particular workplace at some time in the recent past.

Learning from success

There is nothing so inspiring as learning from success. Just days before this year’s gala, the workers at Tyneside Safety Glass in nearby Gateshead had largely won their pay strike and it would have been great to let the crowd know of this important success achieved after three weeks on strike.

Where were the big banners with the slogans JOIN A UNION. Where were the leaflets – again with examples of success and accompanied by information about what a union is and how to join - and where was the drive to speak to young people on the day and encourage them to sign up?

I have already mentioned the need to try to engage with the young people by having a speaker more closely related to their age group. But, in addition, do we really need 4-5 people to more or less say the same thing and represent the same Labour Party constituency. The Labour movement has lost two of its best speakers in Bob Crow and Tony Benn and aside from UNITE’s Len Mc- Cluskey and Mark Serwotka from the PCS, I am not convinced that the current trade union leaders command much of a presence, they certainly didn’t this year as what they had to say was not especially riveting.

There is within the brochure for the gala, and occasionally from the platform, references to new movements and campaigns including UK Uncut and the People’s Assembly. Only weeks after the gala, a march was started from Jarrow to London to put pressure on the government to change the disastrous course it has plotted to privatise the National Health Service. This movement was kick-started by local Darlington mums and I wouldn’t have minded hearing from them. Interestingly, the largest cheer this year came when the Communications Workers Union speaker Jane Lofts said: “Workers should unite with every refugee and asylum speaker.”

A good friend is someone who is unafraid to offer constructive criticism. I am a good friend of the Durham Miners’ Gala and while I certainly hope to see the gala running for many years to come I think it needs some changes. I am sure other people just as passionate as me feel the same. 

Dedicated to Joseph Charlton, aged 42, and Robert Noble, aged 45, relatives of mine who perished at the Easington Colliery disaster in 1951.