Saturday, 15 October 2011

EVENT: The Great Unrest: 100 Years since the First National Railway Strike, Fighting Unions 1911 and Today

Public Meeting - panel discussion followed by debate 
16.00-19.30 Saturday 12 November 2011 
Peoples History Museum, Left Bank, Spinningfields, Manchester, M3 3ER 


Bob Crow - founder and Chair of the United Campaign to Repeal the Anti-Trade Union Laws and RMT General Secretary 
Alex Gordon - RMT President and author of ‘Charles Watkins: The Syndicalist Railwayman’ (2010)
David Howell - Professor of Politics, University of York, author Respectable Radicals- Studies in the Politics of Railway Trade Unionism (1999) 
Sam Davies - Professor of History, Liverpool John Moores University, author of History in the Making: The Liverpool Docks Dispute 1995–96 (1996) 
Britain’s first national rail strike in 1911 was part of ‘The Great Unrest’ a huge upsurge of worker militancy between 1910-14, which created the National Union of Railwaymen (NUR), the first industrial union in February 1913 and the ‘Triple Alliance’ of miners, dockers and railworkers. 

On “Bloody Sunday” 13 August 1911 a mass strike meeting at Liverpool’s Lime Street station was attacked by police. The Liverpool strike committee declared a general strike from midnight. The following day four rail unions (ASRS, GRWU, UPSS and ASLEF) threatened a national rail strike unless rail companies agreed to negotiations. The government offered rail bosses “every available soldier in the country” to resist the ultimatum and on 17 August a national rail strike was declared in the famous ‘liberty telegram’, which proclaimed: “Your liberty is at stake. All railwaymen must strike at once. The loyalty of each means liberty for all.” 

The strike demonstrated the power of workers acting in solidarity across shipping, docks, railways and road transport to reject craft sectarianism, which rail companies used to rule transport workers. The 1911 strike pushed ASRS, GRWU and UPSS railway unions to merge to create the National Union of Railwaymen, one of the largest and most important trade unions in 20th century British labour history.

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