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. 

Betty Gallacher podcast - standing up for all workers


Betty Gallacher – Standing up for all workers


Based on a booklet commissioned by Unite Education on the union’s heroes past and present.


Betty Gallacher, who was an elected Transport and General Workers Union (T&G)/Unite bus workers’ representative for decades, has throughout her life played a massive part in the ongoing struggle for working people, equality, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) rights.


Download booklet at:-

LEEDS’ GRENFELL-TYPE CLADDING Big Issue North magazine article 19-25 October 2020


Big Issue North magazine article from 19-25 October 2020

Resident campaigns to remove the hazard

Fire Service doesn’t have an at-risk list


A Leeds flat owner campaigning to remove Grenfell Tower-type cladding believes the government is “pretending to listen” to millions of people trapped in accommodation that is a fire risk. In 2017 account manager Abigail Tubis and her husband spent £164,000 on their two-bedroomed city centre property, believing it would be a safe investment.


Losing sleep

The couple watched with horror in June 2017 as 72 residents of Grenfell Tower (GFT) flats in North Kensington died when a blaze spread rapidly up its exterior cladding, bringing fire and smoke to all 24 storeys. They were assured this could not happen to their flats by the property management company responsible for overseeing their building.

 But they felt something was wrong when soon after the building’s owner unsuccessfully tried to sell it. In July 2019 the government announced that in addition to GFT-like cladding an extended combustible materials list was being compiled. “Building owners were told to complete checks before removing anything listed. We did not know this. In October 2019 a letter arrived revealing the combustible material the building is wrapped in and making clear that removing it would be the leaseholder’s responsibility,” said Tubis, who is required to pay £30,000.

She contacted other building residents before establishing Leeds Cladding Scandal Campaign, which has linked up with similar organisations nationally, and believes up to three million people may live in properties at risk of fire. Residents have drawn strength from campaigning but many have also developed mental health problems for fear of a fire starting overnight, she believes. “People are spending hundreds on waking watches sitting outside their homes and deciding who will contact the fire brigade if there is a fire,” she said.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (HCLG) claims the government has committed £158 million to supporting communities so far, which includes health and wellbeing services. But David Williams, Fire Brigades Union Yorkshire and Humberside regional secretary, is concerned that the Fire Service does not have a list of flammable buildings. Until a decade ago it was traditional for the service to be asked by property owners about where to site fire hydrants when a new block of flats was being constructed. That is no longer the case.

“In addition we regularly find flats that previously had old heavy fire doors throughout have had them replaced by hollow plastic ones. It means a fire on the floor below can fill the one above within 30 minutes, rather than an hour. It’s not as safe for residents,” said Williams.

He fears a repeat of what happened in November last year in Bolton where the six storey Cube accommodation block for students went up in a frighteningly reminiscent manner to GFT.

Williams wants legislation requiring owners of all new buildings to work with the Fire Service to make them not only fire-safe but to ensure that in the event of a fire his members are familiar with the layout and construction materials.

 Tubis believes where she lives “was never safe because building control was privatised by the government, allowing cheap materials to be used throughout. Fire breaks to stop fire spreading are missing. Many locations are the same. Properties were bought in good faith. They swiftly need making safe by the government before anyone else is killed and to prevent a further rise in mental health problems. The government should recoup the costs from the developers and construction companies.”

Footing the bill Tubis estimates the total remedial cost for the UK is around £30 billion. The government argues that blocks that remain unsafe failed to comply with regulations at the time of construction. Conversely, developers contend that building regulations were at fault. Tenants and leaseholders are left caught in the middle.

Even under proposed new legislation – which only initially covers blocks above 18 metres high – leaseholders and tenants rights will not be guaranteed, according to Tubis, and will need to be tested in court. “The government has said that leaseholders should not pay for remedial work but I think this is them pretending to listen as the new building safety bill quashes leaseholders’ rights,” she said.

A Department for Housing, Communities and Local Government spokesperson told Big Issue North: “We have allocated £1.6 billion to speed up remediation of unsafe cladding. In our draft Building Safety Bill, the new regulator will hold those who design, build, and manage high rise homes accountable for keeping residents and buildings safe.

“Owners are responsible for ensuring buildings and the people who live in them are safe. We expect them to meet remediation costs without passing them on to leaseholders.”

Monday, 12 April 2021

Peterloo 1819: Halifax 1842 podcast by Halifax actress Catherine Howe

 Peterloo 1819: Halifax 1842 podcast by Halifax actress Catherine Howe



Halifax born actress and author Catherine Howe on the fateful day of 16 August 1842 when the military and special constables brutally attacked local people that were seeking more democracy and an end to poverty. 

Transcript of podcast by Catherine Howe



At around 3 pm, on Tuesday 16 August 1842, a sunny day, an unnamed man sat at a table at the Northgate Hotel in Halifax, Yorkshire.  About him were soldiers, and many of the town’s mill and coal mine owners.   The atmosphere was highly charged, because two hours earlier the soldiers had been attacked by a large crowd of angry local people throwing stones.  Three soldiers had been injured.  This unnamed man wrote that the soldiers swore they would have their revenge.  An hour later, possibly after some drinking of alcohol, the soldiers went out from the Northgate Hotel and, within a few minutes, attacked the crowd with devastating effect. 


I grew up in Halifax in the 1950s and 60s and never learned about this event.  How could it have been almost entirely forgotten?  Halifax, back in 1842, was a prominent Chartist town.  Chartists, put simply, were people campaigning for democracy.  So why would British soldiers fire upon people calling for democracy? 


Chartists were overwhelmingly industrial working families campaigning, at a time of great need, for political reform.  They were regarded by the majority in parliament as a threat, and during the great industrial strike in the summer of 1842, the army was sent against them.  And so, at 4 o’clock on the afternoon of Tuesday 16 August 1842, a troop of the 11th Hussars, mounted and with sabres, and foot-soldiers of the 61st regiment, with rifles and bayonets, more than 100 soldiers, attacked Halifax demonstrators within a few moments of coming from their barracks. 


The demonstrators, some fifteen hundred local people, were coming into Halifax town centre and heading across the old stone North Bridge to Jonathan Akroyd’s mill and shed on Haley Hill.   It’s revealing to see newspaper reports saying that the crowd was not-causing a disturbance.  Yet, within a few minutes of the soldiers coming from the Northgate Hotel the first shots were fired. 


The military attack on the people, aided by special constables, was prolonged and wide spread, extending a square quarter mile from Haley Hill across to Broad Street in Halifax. 


Reported deaths from gunshot are Jonathan Booth, shot in the abdomen.  He died the next day.  And three unnamed men found dead in Jonathan Akroyd’s private grounds.


Sutton Briggs:  20 years old and looking on at the attack from some distance, was shot through the groin. 


William Sutcliffe: lost his left leg from gunshot. 


Reported injuries from sabre cuts are: Henry Walton of Skircoat Green, whose injuries are too awful to describe and who was not expected to live; Charles Taylor: much the same.  Samuel Bates and John Brook received unspecified injury from sabre cuts.


Reported injuries from bayonet stabs are: John Holroyd bayoneted five times, Matham Crook bayoneted and hit about his head, both these on Broad Street.

Men were seen carried down from Haley Hill by a newspaper reporter, ‘one’ he said, ‘wounded between the shoulders, one in his back.  Another was being wheeled in a cart. They appeared he said to be fatally wounded.’


A reporter for the Bradford Observer saw how a man called Crowther ‘had his head > slashed open by a constable’s bludgeon. 


The Bradford Observer also describes people fleeing ‘as soon as they possibly could at [the soldiers] approach . . .’ and that many were shot in the fields as they ran away.  And both Halifax and Bradford papers say that the townspeople universally viewed the conduct of the military as ferocious and unnecessary.


There were dozens more walking-injured.  The police station where the arrested were taken was said to look like a hospital.


This was a day of real trauma.  When the attack was over and the soldiers heading for their barracks, one of the foot soldiers stopped on a quiet street, raised his rifle, aimed it at an > elderly man called Samuel Crowther, and fired.  Samuel Crowther was shot through the abdomen but against all expectations he survived.  This shooting became known, because two newspaper men were standing six feet from Samuel Crowther at the time, and they ensured it was reported.


Official reports seem to amount to a sheet of paper listing the names of seven injured men which found its way to the Home Office from Halifax, and a letter from one of the Halifax magistrates concerning itself with injuries to five soldiers.  This seems to be all that was done by way of official reporting of the event. 


So we’ll never know the true number of deaths and injuries from the attack of Tuesday 16 August 1842 in Halifax.  We do know it was a quite prolonged attack by more than 100  soldiers with rifles and sabres.  Dozens of injured demonstrators left the town, to avoid arrest.  Those too badly wounded to walk were carried back to their homes, by friends or family and it seems they kept quiet. 


So, in 1842 Britain was a society where parliament sent troops against civilians.  But parliament understood the implications of this terrible state of affairs.  So six years later we have the new police forces, civilian authorities, who can take the place of the military on the front line against demonstrators, while the soldiers are kept in reserve and out of sight. 


Within 70 years, parliament has legislated for the very reforms that the people they had sent soldiers against had called for.   These-are-the democratic principles we now take for granted.   But the Chartists continued to have a very bad press for more than one hundred years which is perhaps why this significant event in Halifax was almost entirely forgotten.  Historians have looked again at this, and they now know that the heritage left behind by these people who expended so much hope and energy in getting an undemocratic parliament to reform itself, to the point of imprisonment, life transportation, injury and in so many cases death, that they deserve to be remembered with pride by everyone, of every political persuasion.  



Transcript of podcast by Catherine Howe

Tuesday, 6 April 2021


 Big Issue North article - 29 March 2021 


Government accused of 1,400 “pushbacks”

 Human rights groups and MEPs speak out


The Greek government has been accused of pushbacks of refugees arriving on its shores. A human rights group has compiled a report claiming that nearly 1,400 people were pushed back over a border in March-July last year, undermining their right to claim asylum. And a group of MEPs has written to the European Commission urging it to make clear their concerns to the Greek government.


Fleeing conflict

The figure of 1,400 is likely to be an underestimate, according to Vasilis Tsarnas of the human rights group Greek Helsinki Monitor, which compiled the report that has now been sent to the Greek supreme court, naval court and military appeals court.

 “Clearly we cannot get to know of each incident in which refugees are being denied the right to arrive in Greece by state forces,” said Tsarnas, who claims that NGOs and journalists are being denied access to the Greek islands nearest to the Turkish shore where many people are being turned back.

An Athens bookshop worker, Tsarnas volunteers for Greek Helsinki Monitor, which was founded in 1993 to support human and minority rights, and to campaign against discrimination.

“We record incidents and send them to prosecutors, who generally fail to act by enforcing current legislation,” he said. “It thus requires further efforts to put public and political pressure on state authorities. Where necessary we apply to take cases to the European Court of Human Rights and send reports to the UN in Geneva.”

Thanks to its monitoring, Greek Helsinki Monitor assisted the ruling last year in which the neo-fascist party Golden Dawn was found guilty of running a criminal organisation as it became prominent during the country’s financial crisis, when it systematically targeted migrants and leftwing critics. Former Golden Dawn MPs have now been imprisoned.

Since 2015, most entrants to Greece are refugees fleeing conflict in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. They arrive via Turkey. Some Greek MPs have accused the Turkish government of attacking the country by sending refugees.

In February, Aegean Boat Report, a Norwegian NGO, reported that 13 people from Afghanistan – including three women and five children – were removed soon after arriving at a Greek statefacilitated refugee camp in Lesbos. They were forced into a container by four men wearing unmarked dark uniforms, beaten with batons, and the women were assaulted. A van transported the 13 to a port and forced them on to an inflatable life raft that was towed out to sea. They were abandoned without life jackets and picked up by the Turkish coast guard off Behram early the following morning.

“Greek Helsinki Monitor is now representing eight of the illegally deported Afghans, who should be allowed to return to Greece and apply to stay,” said Tsarnas.

“We are pleased that a number of MEPs have written to Ylva Johansson, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs.”

In their letter the MEPs state: “The Greek government’s claims that they are complying with all international laws and obligations are highly questionable… we urge you to address this level of pushbacks in the European Union as a matter of priority.”

According to Tsarnas supporting refugees forms part of defending human rights for all. He believes the indifference of many members of the public and politicians to the desperate plight of those seeking to reach Europe through Greece is allowing the police and other state forces to increasingly act violently towards other groups, including workers and students.

“It is inevitable that there will be deaths of people who are risking everything for the prospect of a better life,” he added.

Shot at the border

Between 1993 and 2020, 40,555 refugees and migrants have died after coming to Europe, according to United for Intercultural Action. They include Fatma, a Syrian woman, who was shot by a Greek border guard as she and her husband and six children sought to cross into Greece via the Evros river near Edirne last year. Other Syrian refugees were also shot dead by border guards around this time.

Nearer to home, deaths among migrants and refugees seeking to cross the English Channel included a family of three children who perished in October 2020. Britain has since left the EU. Nevertheless, said Anya Edmond-Pettitt of the Institute of Race Relations: “The UK cannot abandon all those trying to reach here. International conventions still apply, like the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, requiring safe and legal family reunion routes for children.

 “Maritime search and rescue of vessels in distress at sea is accepted the world over. We must pressure the government and all parties to uphold these lifesaving measures.”

An ongoing list of podcasts - personal and Unite the union


Podcast lists


1)      Lifelong trade unionist and socialist Martin McMulkin was, until he retired, the Unite convenor at Jost in Bolton for many years.

In 2019 he became a Labour councillor in Bolton but he was unwilling to simply facilitate cuts in local services.

2)      Charlie Clutterbuck


In this half hour audio interview, Charlie Clutterbuck – author of the 2017 book Bitterwseet Brexit: the future of food, farming, land and labour – seeks to examine how his predictions in it are working out following Britain’s exit from the EU.

The labour and trade movement activist explains the massive forthcoming changes in farming that will put out of business many small farmers, recalls why the EU sought to develop farming policies that ended European countries dependence on US food imports, touches on the massive imbalance in land ownership at home and how the pouring into the UK of a lot of cheaper, poorly produced food will further raise obesity levels and put further pressure on the NHS and social services.

Clutterbuck notes that it is a US company, Tate and Lyle, that was the first to benefit from the Government’s removal of tariffs on imports, literally handing millions from British taxpayers to American shareholders. Money that could have been used to subsidise better-paid jobs in land-based food producing occupations that would boost incomes in rural communities.

As a soil scientist, Clutterbuck investigates the Government’s plans for those that work on the land and finds a total absence of any detail. How ideas for greening the land in which big grants may be used to lever in private finance for projects that might possibly provide an initial job creation boost through rewilding and tree planting projects are not going to revive rural communities.

The interview ends with Clutterbuck exploring how to create a direct link using food credits between producers of high-quality food and the poorest in society.

The interview was conducted by Mark Metcalf


3)      Peterloo 1819: Halifax 1842

Most people know of Peterloo 1819 when eighteen people died after cavalry charged into a crowd of around 60,000 people who had gathered to demand the reform of parliamentary representation.

Far fewer know of similar tragic events in Halifax in August 1842.

This was when, at the very least, five local people were slaughtered and dozens badly injured – by the military and special constables – whilst they were participating in a nationwide general strike that combined demands for better pay with an extension to those allowed to vote. 


4)      Blood Suckers – how PFI sucked the NHS dry



Catherine Howe, author of the Halifax 1842: A Year of Crisis book is also recording a 7-minute piece that examines the deaths and injuries suffered by people on 16 August 1842.


Unite oral history podcasts


What does it mean to be a shop steward?

Being a safety rep.

The miners strike’ of 1984 and the Battle of Orgreave

Organising the 1980 truckers’ strike

Organising workers behind the Iron Curtain

Fighting the Poll Tax


The Miners Strike by A. Daykin


Organising workers on zero hours contracts – part 1

Part 2

Being a union rep – Jacob Goddard


Experiences of trade union education – Jacob Goddard


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:-

Saturday, 3 April 2021

Leeds against the Police Bill events on Easter Friday

 Photos that follow are courtesy of Mark Harvey of ID8 photography and are copyright and not to be reproduced without written permission. 

A crowd of close to a thousand took to the roads of Leeds City Centre yesterday in protest against the proposed Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. (Police Bill)  

'Kill the (Police) Bill' 

This followed a rally in Millennium Square in which the speakers included trade unionists and political activists from a range of organisations including Black Lives Matter (BLM) and Extinction Rebellion Families. (XR)

The events formed part of a series of similar occasions being organised across the country over the Easter weekend.

As is in the current climate where the police may choose, as they did at the Sarah Everard vigil in London on 13 March, to rigorously apply laws relating to tackling the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has been badly handled by the Conservative government, the rally and march were called by unidentified persons and organisations.

As the sun filled Millennium Square in central Leeds the first speaker was Jane Aitchison, President of Leeds Trades Union Council (LTUC) and a longstanding activist within the PCS union.

She received a warm round of applause from amongst a crowd that included just a handful who were displaying trade union flags and whilst the LTUC banner was displayed there was no other trade union banner on show. There was no obvious Labour Party presence and no Labour MP spoke. The largest political party clearly present was the SWP but their numbers were small.

Aitchison, who was unsuccessful when she stood as a Labour candidate in Pudsey at the 2019 General Election, when Jeremy Corbyn’s party, sabotaged from within in the previous years, lost badly.

The Tory Government now has whopping majority and has introduced a series of draconian bills – such as the SpyCops Bill, the Overseas Operations Bill and now the Police Bill- that will if enacted send Britain on a dangerous path towards increased authoritarianism. Labour has abstained on the first Bill, voted against the second and was set to abstain on the third until the police behaved viciously at the Sarah Everard vigil.

Aitchison spoke of the long history of trade union struggles in Leeds including the successful gas workers’ strike of 1889 that led to the setting up of what is now known as the GMB union and physical opposition to Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirted fascists of the 1930s. She appealed to anyone present not already in one to join a trade union and contended that “Together we are strong, together we can win.” Let’s hope so.

Steve Johnson, who is active in Unite Community, spoke on behalf of People Before Profit. He also drew on previous historical struggles referring to 7 people who were slaughtered by the Yeomanry in 1758, the significant backing locally for the French Revolution in 1790 and the Luddite and Chartist movements that sought to give working people control over workplace practices and a vote at elections.

As Aitchison had highlighted earlier, Johnson remarked that the new piece of legislation would make it increasingly difficult for anyone to organise effective opposition against unpopular government laws or, for example, cuts in wages, jobs and services by employers. “Attending demonstrations and protests is one of the few ways of getting your voice heard, “ he remarked and was cheered by the crowd that clearly agreed with him.

 Marvina of BLM then got a large cheer when she proclaimed that ‘All lives can’t matter until Black Lives Matter.’

Whilst Liz of XR Families felt that even before the new legislation had been given the go ahead by Parliament there had been an increasing attempts by the police to criminalise some protestors. So,  “we must get louder… to fight all forms of injustice… as we need radical change.”

Emma Hewitt from Leeds Disabled People’s Association not only spoke of how Direct Action by disabled people led to the first Disability Discrimination Act in 1995 but also of how since then many rights for disabled people have been eroded because of austerity.

Denetta Copeland of Stand up to Racism argued that there was “no choice… (but to oppose the Bill)…. as without the rights to protest then you can’t extract change…”

She drew great applause when she, rightly, remarked “you don’t need to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, this is your shoes.”

Woody of Youth Strike felt that Priti Patel was terrified of young people using their voices to seek change and that the global school strike for climate on selective Fridays since 15 March 2019 had successfully altered many people’s views on the need to prevent climate change.

'This is what democracy looks like' 

The crowd then made their way on to the nearby road. In the presence of a number of police officers, some of whom were unnecessarily videoing those taking part, the majority of whom were under 30 years of age, the marchers made their way through the City Centre, which was largely deserted. The police assisted the walk, which was lively throughout with drums, music and songs, top of which was ‘this is what democracy looks like’, of around a mile by stopping any traffic.

On the return to Millennium Square there were a number of additional speakers before the crowd dispersed after what had proved, as is the case on most political events, including large marches, to be an entirely peaceful occasion.

Whilst it had been a good day it is obvious that unless many more people and organisations get actively involved then the Bill will eventually become law. Once that happens it will be doubly difficult to legally organise to reverse what will be a severe damage to our rights.