Trade Unions Then – Tramways 1901 and Print 1985-86

Event Details
Date: , 2023
Time: to
Location: Studio 1&2 Level 1
Venue: M Shed, BS1 4RN
Price: Free
With: Mike Richardson, Rob Whitfield
Series: Bristol Radical History Festival 2023
Page Details

The Bristol Tramways Lock-Out, 1901 – Rob Whitfield

In the summer of 1901 the Bristol Tramways Company sacked 90 employees who had recently joined the Gasworkers’ and General Labourers’ Union. Another 300 tramways employees went on strike in support of their dismissed fellow workers. This action by the Tramways Company was a direct challenge to the trade union movement in Bristol and beyond, and the wider labour movement rallied in support of the tramwaymen. The company threw all the resources they had into defeating the union and were ultimately successful. This is an episode in Bristol’s trade union history which has not received the attention it deserves and this talk is an attempt to begin to fill that gap.

Strife and Strikes in the Bristol and Somerset Printing Industry 1985-86 – Mike Richardson

In 1986, Rupert Murdoch, the head of News International, unleashed a well-prepared attack on his unionised workforce at The Sun, News of the World, The Times and Sunday Times which culminated in a strike on 24 January and the dismissal of 5,500 workers. While this attracted a high level of coverage in the National Press, little or no attention was given to other significant conflicts in the printing industry. Print workers’ jobs and conditions of employment were under threat in the provinces as well as in the national newspaper industry.

In Bristol and the county of Somerset, redundancies at two firms engendered bitter conflicts that coincided with the critical early months of the News International strike. This talk will explore the lock-out and dismissals at Purnell’s printing plant, owned by Robert Maxwell, in Paulton, Somerset, and the troubles, tussles and walk-outs at DRG Flexible Packaging, Fishponds, Bristol.

The material for this talk is taken from my book Tremors of Discontent: My Life in Print 1970-1988 (Bristol Radical History Group, 2021) and Mike Richardson ‘Leadership and Mobilization: SOGAT in the 1986-87 News International Dispute’ in Historical Studies in Industrial Relations, No. 15 Spring 2003, pp. 73-95.

Wapping dispute 1986-87

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