Featherstone Massacre Commemorated

At James Gibbs and James Duggan's graves, commemorating the Featherstone Massacre

At James Gibbs and James Duggan’s graves, commemorating the Featherstone Massacre

Despite poor weather, over 25 people turned up to commemorate the 121st Anniversary of the Featherstone Massacre organised by the Wakefield Socialist History Group. Wakefield & Pontefract Socialist Party member, John Gill, recounted the fateful events when miners at Ackton Hall Colliery in Featherstone took six weeks of strike action in 1893, against their tyrannical employer, Samuel Cunliffe-Lister – the same person who owned the Manningham Mills in Bradford.

Iain Dalton

As workers succesfully blocked the moving of coal supplies on the 7th September, troops were called to ‘maintain order’. After clearing the site and reading the Riot Act, 16 men were wounded when the soldiers shot into the crowd with live amunition. Heavy rain stopped those gathered visiting the site of the massacre, although a dry spell allowed us to visit the graves of the two workers who died from their wounds, James Duggan and James Gibbs, where WSHG convener, Alan Stewart spoke briefly.

Instead, we were confined to the Bradley Arms, a local pub connected to the dispute, where ILP MP RB Cunninghame-Graham’s words from his visit in the aftermath of the shooting, ‘Revolutions are not made with rosewater’, adorn the fireplace.

The ILP made the case a cause celebré, with Keir Hardie visiting as well as Cunninghame-Graham. For those wanting to know the outcome of the ILP’s campaign for justice for those miners, then come and join next year’s (hopefully sunnier) commemoration or get a copy of the forthcoming pamphlet which John is writing about this struggle as well as the Kinsley Evictions, which also was pivotal for the development of the ILP in the area.

Hundreds Protest Against Israeli Onslaught on Gaza in Wakefield

250 gathered to protest in Wakefield

250 gathered to protest in Wakefield

Over 250 people of Wakefield District gathered on Wakefield Cathedral precinct to protest against the Israeli Governments disgraceful and vicious attacks on Gaza and its people.

John Gill, Wakefield & Pontefract Socialist Party

The protest had many young people and families from the city, many who have never spoken in public before gave impassioned speeches, along with local trade unionists and religious leaders such as Ken Capstick, Yorkshire NUM Vice-President during the 1984-5 strike, Tony Robinson, the Bishop of Pontefract and Mr Shah from the Wakefield Mosques.

Socialist Party members leafleted amongst the crowds as well as on our stall, around twenty papers were sold and most people got a leaflet or signed our petition. Several contacts were made with young people on the protest, with two Palestinian refugees staying locally amongst others.

Socialist Party stall at the protest

Socialist Party stall at the protest

A dozen EDL members, mainly from South Yorkshire hung around the protest attempting to disrupt it but were drowned out every time they tried so they gave up fairly soon when faced with mass numbers.

Wakefield Socialist Party will be holding a meeting about the Israel/Palestine conflict on Tuesday August 12th at 7.30pm in the Black Rock in Wakefield including a report from the CWI summer school about the work being done in the working class of Israel and Palestine to fight for Socialist change, the only long term solution to the conflict.

Rugby League: Have Featherstone fans got their club back?

“It will all end in tears,” some Featherstone Rovers Rugby League football club supporters said when news broke of major new investors and signings at the club. Months later, majority “B” shareholder Feisal Nahaboo and chief executive Craig Poskitt walked away from the club.

Michael Griffiths and Simon Barraclough, Wakefield Socialist Party

Featherstone, a small ex-mining community, is proud of its professional rugby league team. The smallest town in Britain to have one, Rovers won the game’s biggest prize, the challenge cup, at Wembley stadium three times. It produces local youngsters and causes upsets against more fashionable clubs.

At a packed fans forum after Feisal and Craig’s departure, Rovers chairman Mark Campbell reported concerns about apparent inaccurate financial information being presented by the finance director and Feisal’s attempt to take over an elected board. The fallout led to legal threats and then Feisal’s departure.

Fans raised questions on the club’s financial plight after the departure of the majority shareholder. Feisal’s shares are owned by Probiz Excellence Limited. Probiz (and its sister companies) offer “a range of added-value solutions for business owners and individuals from general accountancy to business advisory services to wealth management opportunities,” says its website.

Despite threats of winding up orders, however, the club is not on the verge of financial collapse. The chairman stressed that the club does not have to buy back the shares Probiz acquired. Campbell also pointed out that all full and part time player contracts already signed will be honoured.

Campbell’s answers seemed to reassure fans. The club is a limited company but many major decisions are still in the fans’ control, who can own one “A” share each. The fans control the land the club owns and elects representatives onto the board.

And although Featherstone Rovers may not have the money to make the club a force in the game again, we’ve been through hard times before and will again pull through by our own efforts together.

Argos Workers Strike Against Increased Weekend Working

Unite pickets outside Argos distribution centre

Unite pickets outside Argos distribution centre

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Friday 4th July, Argos workers at the depot near Whitwood took part in the 24-hour strike involving over 1,000 workers across five sites altogether.

Ben Mayor, Leeds Socialist Party

The dispute was over terms and conditions which will mean an increase in weekend working for workers on a 24/7 shift pattern.

At the depot there was a vibrant and enthusiastic picket of around 30 Argos workers. Workers are not prepared to accept the new terms and conditions being thrust upon them by the company, and are opposing a one-off payment to staff of £2,400 which is wholly inadequate in the face of such disruption to family life.

The union rep for the site commented on the huge amount of support that their struggle has received from the community and other workers. “No one is unaffected by what is going on, the bus drivers have a dispute over pay at the minute and this action will affect other depots as well”, she remarked.

She also commented: “If we had known the results of the public sector ballot earlier we would have come out together on the 10th of July”, when over one million public sector workers will be striking over pay and the onslaught of local authority cuts. This highlighted a clear desire amongst union members to organise coordinated action against the cuts, austerity and this government.

This fight is not over, and workers are prepared to continue action if this strike does not bring the employer back to the negotiating table.

Protesters Demand the Truth about Orgreave

Protesters gather opposite Wakefield IPCC office

Protesters gather opposite Wakefield IPCC office

On Friday 29th March around 100 protestors gathered outside the Northern Office of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) in Wakefield to voice their anger at the continuing cover-up of the truth of the police operation to break the National Union of Miners outside the Orgreave coaking plant just under 20 years ago.
The protest was organised by the Orgreave Truth and Justice campaign, and as their spokesperson, Barbara Jackson introduce the speakers, she commented on the IPCC had moved at a “snail’s pace” to review the events around Orgreave after South Yorkshire Police referred themselves to the IPCC under pressure in the wake of the Hillsborough inquiry. She also pointed out the limitations of IPCC, larfgely staffed by former police officers and unable to compel police officers to testify – she called for putting as much pressure on the IPCC as possible but also for a public inquiry.
There were a whole array of speakers, including many trade union activists from South Yorkshire, but most memorable was an NUR member at the time who explained the solidarity that rank and file railway gave to the miners in refusing to move coal as well as Kevin, a Doncaster Care UK striker who had also been one of the miners arrested at Orgreave.
Protesters holding Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign posters

Protesters holding Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign posters

One of the NUM banners on the protest

One of the NUM banners on the protest

Care UK striker Kevin addresses the crowd

Care UK striker Kevin addresses the crowd

Yorks ambulance workers strike again

Unite pickets outside Wakefield Ambulance station

Unite pickets outside Wakefield Ambulance station

On 1 February, Unite members in the Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust took part in a further 24-hour strike as part of their long-running dispute.

Iain Dalton

Unite members outside the Wakefield depot remained determined in their fight to force the Trust to re-recognise the union and stop the savage cuts which are currently taking place.

Meanwhile, more Unison members, frustrated at the union’s continued inaction in opposing the cuts, the latest being attacks on lunch breaks, are going over to Unite.

Terry Cunliffe, Unite regional officer, spoke to the Socialist:

“My understanding of Unison’s position is that for the last 12 months they have regionally supported Unite’s campaign for re-recognition.

“I have to say the local branch are not following that mandate and in fact have spoken openly, hostilely about the re-recognition of Unite.

“They don’t support us in the way that they promised at the TUC, the local branch activists are actively against our re-recognition.

“Unison have gone round the stations supporting the management plan, they have balloted their members and I have heard them, speaking about their ballot result. 70% of their members don’t agree with their branch position, rejecting the management proposal.

“As far as I am concerned, this completely vindicates the decision that we made to campaign and fight against these cuts.

“They are dangerous to patients and dangerous to our members, and Unison members feel the same. I’m hoping the Unison branch takes that mandate and joins the fight against these cuts.”

A further four-hour strike is taking place on 3 February to mark a year since the union was de-recognised by the former Trust chief executive.

Yorkshire Ambulance: The battle against union derecognition

Protesters outside the Yorkshie Ambulance Service HQ

Protesters outside the Yorkshie Ambulance Service HQ

Around 40 Unite members and supporters protested outside Yorkshire Ambulance Service (YAS) headquarters near Wakefield on 3 September.

The protest, outside an extraordinary board meeting of the trust, demanded the re-recognition of Unite as well as full training of Emergency Care Assistants (ECA) to the level of technicians with the correct rate of pay for that job.

Debbie Wilkinson, YAS Unite branch secretary explained that: “The Trust say they derecognised us because we weren’t constructive during the initial stages of the review”.

In other words Unite didn’t roll over and accept the imposition of staff who have only been through a few weeks’ training to crew ambulances instead of technicians or paramedics with much longer training periods.

ECAs earn less than technicians and paramedics. This attack on patient safety as well as the jobs of ambulance service staff is part of a £46 million package of cuts.

Debbie also pointed to the irony of the Trust derecognising Unite for raising concerns over patient safety at around the same time as the Francis report into Mid Staffs NHS Trust advocated that NHS staff should do just that!

The battle continues in YAS NHS Trust with a further protest organised for 24 September at 8.30am outside Cutler’s Hall, Church Street, Sheffield, S1 1HG. The branch can also be followed on twitter @UniteYASmembers.