Marching for the Shrewsbury 24

4 07 2010

Yesterday a trio of trade unionists from North Staffs TUC travelled to Shrewsbury for the second annual march in solidarity with the Shrewsbury 24. For readers unfamiliar with this important episode in modern trade unionism, the campaign site takes it up:

After the 1972 Building Workers’ National Strike 24 Trade Unionists were tried at Shrewsbury in a hostile act perpetrated by a Tory Government to criminalise picketing. A number of these men were given severe prison sentences. Best known of them were Des Warren and Ricky Tomlinson, who became referred to as the “Shrewsbury 2.” Des died as a direct result of the treatment that was meted out to him during his lengthy incarceration. Successive Governments both Tory and Labour, have remained unresponsive to the calls for these perverse judgements to be set aside, and for these men to be cleared. There is now a renewal of the campaign, even after all this time, and the death of some of those involved, to secure justice for these Trade Union Comrades. The campaign is also calling for a Public Inquiry to expose the role of successive governments and the secret services in the events surrounding this important time in labour history.

About 200 assembled at the car park just by Shrewsbury Abbey and took off up the hill to the war memorial outside the Shropshire county council offices, which itself is a stone’s throw from the very court that jailed the Shrewsbury pickets 38 years ago.

This year we heard speeches from a Shrewsbury 24 speaker (I didn’t catch his name), Bob Crow of the RMT, Janice Godrich of the PCS and Ricky Tomlinson. A Right to Work speaker (whose name escaped me too) opened by arguing that the trade union movement might have to bring down the coalition government to successfully see off the draconian cuts it plans to make to public spending. Next came the Shrewsbury 24 comrade who forcefully argued that the campaign is not looking for a pardon but complete exoneration, the publication of all the secret documents still kept under wraps (in his stint has home secretary, Jack Straw ludicrously claimed there were matters of national security to consider), an apology and a public inquiry into the frame-up.

As you might expect, Bob Crow didn’t mince his words. While not calling for widespread mass strikes on this occasion, he did say our priority is the building of a fighting trade union movement. In the face of the coming tidal wave of cuts and unemployment, standing up and fighting is our only option. He also mocked those MPs who ignored the trade union movement while Labour were in power but since the election have reinvented themselves as the unions’ best friends. His message to them was stark: back us and we will back you, but never again will there be a blank cheque. The immediate litmus test will be John McDonnell’s private members’ bill seeking to enhance workplace rights.

My apologies to Janice Godrich and Ricky Tomlinson – I couldn’t remember what they said, apart from Ricky warning the youngsters present that the Tories are set on giving them a “good hiding” unless the cuts are fought at every step.

Numbers were roughly the same as last year but significantly there seemed to have been a greater proportion of younger people in the crowd. There were delegations from more unions present too.

In all, it was an excellent day and no doubt more hay was had afterwards in the Unison social club. I just hope that when we meet to march against next year it will be off the back of several significant victories over Cameron’s coalition of cuts.

Phil BC

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One response

6 07 2010
Steve Funnell

For great pictures, follow the Shropshire PCS link.

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