Transcript for Labour Strikes

<Did you ever strike?>Yes. <Could you tell us a bit about that?> Yes. Eh, strikes, yep. Eh, one of the first strikes I was ever in was an apprentice strike. And that was during the war. When, euh now we were all serving our apprenticeship. And suddenly the government come, and we were very obedient in the shipyards. They would do anything that was asked of them, and different hours, and different things like that. But they came tae us and said ‘The apprentices will go in the mines.’ You see? ‘There’s that many, there’s that many miners have left to go to the army. We’ll put the apprentices in the mines and make them miners.’ And what they called ‘Bevin Boys’. You never hear of it. Bevin was a, minister of power or something. And they was getting called Beni-Bevin Boys. And the shipyard Ah was in, that was the very first strike I was ever active in. I resented this. And we held a meeting and we refused, and refused to go intae work. And refused to register to go tae the mines. That was one of the first strikes. Now, that wasn’t for conditions. That was tae hold on to the skill that we were using. We’d’ve went to the services. But we would not go to the mines. So the young men in the shipyards refused point blank to go. And that was a very successful strike. There was not another thing heard about it. It just fizzled out. But that was the apprentices’ strike. And ah think, ah think it must’ve been about nineteen forty two.

<Can you remember your feeling when you were striking? Was it…> Yes. I’ve been in many strikes since then. And, strikes are a dreadful thing. They are a last resort. And you’ve got to look at it and see if you’ve done everything before you go on strike. Because, you could save up. And working people, you could save up for a whole year, and you could perhaps afford a week’s holiday. And that’s aboot your limit. In they days, you’d get ten days’ holiday. So that was a complete week, and another four days. Or three days. And that was your ten days’ holiday. You had to be at work, that last day before the holiday and return tae your work the very day it was meant to start or else you’d lose your holiday pay. This is what they call penalty clauses. And it was accepted, um issue. If you slept in that morning, you lost your holiday pay. Now, this is the type of thing and eh. So, this was the discipline that was kept over you. But eh, before you would go and r–oh got into–we were talking about strikes. What ah was meaning is you could work all week, all year, and you could just afford to take your family for a week’s holiday. After your holiday, that was you skint. You hadnae anything put by for that, you’dput it by for a holiday. So if it was come tae a strike, and the strike was going tae take place before the holiday, nobody was wanting to go. Nobody was wanting to go on strike before a holiday because they’d spend all their money and they wouldnae be able tae go. ‘A strike? Oh we’ll, postpone it tae after the holiday.’ Now, the management were aware of this. And management used to provoke strikes. But it will deny this, everybody in authority will deny it. But we are absolutely convinced that it took place. They provoked a strike if they had something– they wanted a production stop for any particular reason, they could provoke a strike. Now, a lot of people in trade union movement could actually prove this. Eh, this could take place. But nobody’d believe you. But, eh, I’m convinced it happened. And, your coming–you were saying, what you seem tae be saying to me was ‘How do you feel about coming up to a strike?’ Well coming up to a strike, you would be–it was dreadful. You would come home, and you would say, ‘What are we gonnae dae? Here we’re no gonnae have any money.’ But once you started on the strike, you werenae prepared just to walk back in for the conditions that you’d come oot against. And you would argue for… tae stay. To stay on strike, because you’d already committed yourself fae this. And your family had tae eh, everybody had got accustomed to it, and got it set in their mind that they could, maybe, struggle for a wee bit.

Ah was never on a strike any longer than six weeks. Six weeks Ah think was about the maximum people could hold out for. Because by then, you you just, everything was just, you had nothing. You had nothing at all. And you were piling up debt. Any debt you had, you just never paid. And that just piled up on top of you. And your word, it had to be cleared eventually. No, strikes were a dreadful thing. They should’ve, Ah don’t know, they’re just a last resort.

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