GMB ‘CAMPAIGNS FOR JUSTICE’ CONFERENCE - 5th and 6th SEPTEMBER 2014
COME TOGETHER, RIGHT NOW!
At the GMB ‘Campaigns for Justice’ Conference each speaker was a direct source of experience attesting to the tragic facts of how organisations providing work, together with authorities and agencies tasked to protect us, have colluded to ruin lives. The designs of the state, the fourth estate and big business set out a clear pattern of abuse against the working class.
Margaret Aspinall, Chair of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, provided the testimony of what all these powerful campaigns have in common - the tenacity of not giving up. Her indignation, strength and sorrow was ours when she took to the lectern, saying ‘We are all in hell, it’s torture for all of us.’ Betrayed by a Labour Party and buried alive by mud, it was mass support from the public that gave HFSG the strength to go on.
Mirror journalist Brian Reade was at Hillsborough and has campaigned from day one. He read out extracts from his first article after fans had died in front of his eyes. These were words written in raw anger which prove the truth was out there at the start.
Shadow Secretary of State Andy Burnham described how he had seen post-it notes with orders to change Hillsborough evidence on police logs. ‘The power of the system to grind people down is terrifying’, the MP said, adding that when British justice didn’t deliver, it’s often been the Trade Unions that have given support.
Dave Smith from the blacklisting support group held up the 36-page blacklisting file that was kept on him. ‘Do we want to live in a country where being a Trade Union representative can get you dismissed and placed on a list as a domestic extremist?’ he asked. Blacklisting itself was big business, construction companies paid £2 a go to check tens of thousands of names.
Neil Findlay is a Member for Scottish Parliament and sees himself as being on the political wing of the Trade Union movement. He spoke about blacklisting as a class justice issue. Because campaigners refused to go away, the GMB worked with them. Simply for wanting toilet roll in the toilets, workers could end up on a list of ‘troublemakers’.
A former safety rep on a McAlpine site, Ricky Tomlinson, has been campaigning for justice for the Shrewsbury 24 for years. He had the guts to entertain us whilst setting out the tragic events he and fellow workers went through. ‘They stitch you up and send you to jail then you have to find the evidence and give it back to them,’ he shouted.
Dave Hopper from the Miners’ Association told us the miners’ strike was a war, with Thatcher directing industrial terrorism to break the Unions. 10,000 miners were arrested but not one policeman was ever indicted or charged with an offence - instead they were assisted by the media framing of state propaganda. ‘It is scandalous what we went through in the name of work’, said Dave, and led directly to Hillsborough through West Yorkshire Police learning that impunity is strength.
Former Shipyard worker Eddie Marnell and GMB National Officer Dave Hulse told conference the story of a Cammell Laird strike. Eddie is convinced it was the SAS who were sent in to threaten the men with their lives if they didn’t abandon their occupation. In 1984, 37 legitimate strikers were found guilty of trespass and sentenced to one month in prison, in a gut-wrenching miscarriage of justice. ‘It was to deter the miners’, said Eddie. The men were sacked, blacklisted, and their redundancy and pension rights rescinded.
In today’s climate of austerity it is frightening that unemployed disabled workers are suffering a hate campaign which focuses on them as ‘scroungers’. Remploy used to have 96 factories and was 97% unionised with GMB membership. Brian Davies, former GMB convenor at Remploy, fought to keep the factories open. 80% of the Remploy workers are still unemployed after 2 years and one person from this GMB region hung himself.
Alistair Morgan’s brother Daniel was axed to death in a South London car park. He suspected police and media corruption, and 30 years later is still fighting for justice. The case involves the wholesale selling of information to the Murdoch press. Alistair said ‘I lobbied government till I was sick’ but even having an MP in cabinet with Jack Straw and Hazel Blears didn’t help.
Labour MP Tom Watson said it’s only the Trade Unions that can draw these campaigns together. He repeated a persistent theme: police, Parliament and prime ministers have all collectively failed people. Tom stressed that no-one has attacked the central ownership of media and we can be sure the Trade Unions are on the list of the surveillance state.
The GMB ‘Campaigns for Justice’ Conference gave us an up close and personal view of injustice, where we swept for the mines of a surveillance state and corporate control. When the UK establishment treats people as terrorists for demanding justice, uses corrupt police forces, questionable courts and staggering corporate creep to kettle us in - enough is enough.
The evidence from the platform was that where the people are being wronged, Trade Unions support them. Politicians generally don’t. The judiciary and police don’t. With the right to bargain collectively and freedom to associate already in the European Social Contract, the UK government is planning a further stranglehold on Trade Union laws.
If courage is contagious, networking campaigns for justice encourages solidarity and builds momentum. Summing up, Neil Findlay observed ‘There are common threads for all campaigns against state power and it is our duty to resist. I hope this is the start of something - we owe it to ourselves and our class.’
Written by Caroline Keen, a.k.a. Minnie Stacey
Campaigns for Justice is a GMB initiative aimed at highlighting and supporting various campaigns on behalf of those who have suffered as a consequence of powerful forces thinking they are above the law.
Those campaigns involve people who have experienced injustice at the hands of unscrupulous employers or those in authority or in power. All of them have one thing in common: Their quest for justice.