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Glasgow honours Orgreave | Morning Star

TONIGHT Unite’s Glasgow offices are hosting an event as part of Glasgow’s Trades Council May Day programme recalling stories of the past to present to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the beginning of the miners’ strike 1984-85.

It’ll be held under the banner Orgreave Truth and Justice and Unite for a Workers’ Economy — fight like we did.

Why is a meeting being held in Glasgow about an event during the strike that’s 300 miles away when we’ve plenty of stories to tell from closer to home?

The truth is that the battle of Orgreave, as it came to be known, was a turning point for those who wrongly believed the miners’ strike was an industrial dispute; it wasn’t, it was class war.

On June 18 1984, South Yorkshire faced the full panoply of the ruling class and their state apparatus could throw at the pickets. It was the point at which their gloves were off, and we weren’t ready.

Around 5,000 peaceful pickets from across all the striking coalfields gathered as they had elsewhere. This time, however, the police deployed between 4,000 and 8,000 officers from around 10 forces. Of these, some were trained in new riot tactics following the Toxteth and Brixton riots, though most had little or no experience in dealing with such events.

There were between 40 and 50 mounted police and 58 police dogs, and interestingly no female officers were deployed.

The story of what happened next and the lessons for our movement today will be told by a panel of speakers including Joe Rollin, who has worked in Unite’s organising and leverage department for 11 years and is currently heading up the Unite for a Workers’ Economy campaign team.

Joe has been a lifelong activist and anti-fascist and is one of the founding members of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign. The campaign includes ex-miners, trade unionists, activists and others who are determined to get justice for miners who were victims of police lies and cover-ups at Orgreave in June 1984.

He’ll be joined by Rose Hunter, a member of the North Staffs Miners Wives Action Group and Women Against Pit Closures. The group was set up after the strike to primarily raise funds for the sacked and victimised miners and their families. They have been active as a group since the strike joining picket lines all around the country including Wapping, the Silentnight bed factory strike, the seafarers, Liverpool dockers and more recently RMT, the postal workers and the junior doctors. Coming together in 1984-85 they’re still here, still fighting, and are not defeated.

From closer to home, Pat Egan who worked in the mining industry from 1978 until Longannet, the last mine in Scotland, closed in 2002. Sacked in the 1984-85 strike, he was a proud union member, on the Scottish executive of NUM and a trustee of the union. Egan is now a Unite trade union officer, fighting to better the jobs, pay and conditions of members across the country.

It will be an opportunity to hear from those who were and still are on the front line fighting back against a corrupt government and police force, and how to this day, communities are still organising and fighting for the future of our industries.

Earlier this week I spoke with Rollin while at the STUC who told me: “As we commemorate the 40th anniversary of the miners’ strike we must not forget that the 95 miners who were beaten up, fitted up and locked up at Orgreave on June 18 have never had justice.

“The police who falsified evidence that day in an attempt to frame the miners have never been held to account for their actions. If we don’t right the wrongs of the past, then we are doomed to repeat them. Remember it was the same police force just five years later and a few miles down the road from Orgreave that repeated the same pattern of lies at Hillsborough.

“The campaign has huge support in Yorkshire as this is where most of our activists live, but we must not forget that miners travelled from all the coalfields on June 18, including from Scotland, so we are pleased to be holding the rally in Glasgow hosted by Unite.

“As we have seen over the last two years the flame of trade union struggle has started to flicker again. In my union, Unite, we have seen 1,100 strikes putting £430 million into our members’ pockets and we have a win rate of over 80 per cent. These workers have taken action, sometimes for the first time.

“This is what scares the bosses, and that is why they are bringing in ever more pernicious anti-union legislation. Because we are winning. We look forward to seeing all our supporters and are excited to be kicking off the Glasgow May Day events. See you on the picket lines. Solidarity!”

In addition to the panel of speakers, there is entertainment from Ireland’s Davy Kettlyes and Paul of the band The Wakes. Read more about the Orgreave campaign at www.otjc.org.uk.

Keith Stoddart is chair of Unite Community’s Scottish national forum.

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