Monday, 1 January 2018

More Details On Roberts Arundel Strike

 by John Pearson
John Pearson is a delegate on Stockport Trade Union Council, which in 2017 opened an exhibition commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Roberts Arundel Strike.   The post below is written in a personal capacity.
THE organisation of solidarity for the strike was exemplary.  Within a month of the strike starting a weekly levy of engineering workers across Stockport, Manchester and Ashton had been set up.  Over the 16 months of the strike the levy raised £75,000 and other donations £20,000.  This is equivalent to £1.5 million today, according to the Bank of England's inflation calculator.

Strikers travelled across the country visiting hundreds of factories, warehouses, haulage companies and docks to ask workers to refuse to handle Roberts Arundel products or send them supplies. Tracker teams of strikers followed company waggons.  These were so effective that the company responded by sending an empty 42 ft. trailer waggon out to closely follow their goods waggon in an attempt to throw the trackers off the trail.  At Manchester Airport, ground staff told KLM to remove a Roberts Arundel machine from a cargo plane, or no KLM flight would ever take off from Manchester Airport again.  This was accepted by KLM and the airport management.

In February 1967, 800 people marched through Stockport on a Saturday afternoon in support of the strike.  The following Wednesday, 2000 marched on the factory, including hundreds of local engineering workers from local factories such as Mirrlees and Hawkers and a similar number from the Shell Petrochemical site at Carrington.  The following month, local union reps organised a programme of sympathy sit downs in workplaces with a half day strike and demonstration on Wednesday 29 March.  This escalated to a week of action, organised by Stockport Trades Council at the end of August with workers joining the picket every weekday, morning and afternoon and a 3000 strong march on the Saturday.  There were 13 arrests.   A further week of action was organised in October.  The Chief Constable asked the Council to approve a ban on all demonstrations during that week but the Council voted by 32 to 30 to refuse to give its agreement.  Thousands of Stockport trade unionists stopped work in solidarity on Friday 27 October and a 2000 strong march took place.  There were nearly 400 strikers and supporters at the anniversary picket at the factory on 28 November 1967.

Publicity too was handled in an exemplary manner.  The strike made the headlines of national newspapers on several occasions and there were many column inches of coverage in the local and regional press.  The BBC screened a documentary on the strike as an episode of their Money Box programme.

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