Page 24

GCHQ 30th ANNIVERSARY

24

ALL PICTURES: JOHN HARRIS, EXCEPT JAN 85 PIC BY SHEILA GRAY/FORMAT

…FOR BELONGING TO A TRADE UNION

■■ 26 Jan 1985 – marching through Cheltenham

25 JANUARY 1984 is a key date in trade union history. On that day 30 years ago, every worker at the Government Communications Headquarters in Cheltenham (GCHQ) had an envelope put on their desk which said they could no longer be a member of a trade union and work at GCHQ. Access to industrial tribunals was also banned. Those refusing to sign the government’s document would face the sack. Those signing it would receive £1,000, less tax. The unions called a meeting attended by several hundred members to discuss the options available for staff: to resign from the union and carry on working at GCHQ or stay in the union and be transferred elsewhere in the civil service. The unions added a third – to remain a member of the union and remain working at GCHQ. Unsurprisingly the government ignored this option and the ban took effect on 1 March 1984. In late 1988, with only 14 people remaining who refused to quit their union, the sackings began. The sacked workers travelled the country addressing conferences and meetings, trades councils and rallies. Thousands of people marched through Cheltenham every January on the anniversary of the ban. The unions pursued legal arguments in British and international courts. The ban was lifted in 1997, when the newly-elected Labour government restored trade union rights at GCHQ. Robin Smith, one of the 14 and now Prospect’s head of membership, said: “The support of ordinary working people, not just in the UK but across the world, gave us the strength to keep going.”

ROLL OF HONOUR ■■ 19 Nov 1988 – the first four sacked, outside the gates of GCHQ

Mike Grindley, Graham Hughes, Brian Johnson, Alan Rowland – dismissed 18 November 1988 Robin Smith – dismissed 29 November 1988 Gerry O’Hagan – dismissed 5 December 1988 Dee Goddard – dismissed 12 January 1989

Prospect • Profile – February 2014

Bill Bickham, Roy Taylor, Clive Lloyd, John Cook, Harry Underwood, Alan Chambers – dismissed 22 February 1989 Gareth Morris – dismissed 2 March 1989 ■■ http://bit.ly/GCHQpapers

■■ 15 May 1997 – the ban was lifted; Robin Smith, far left and Mike Grindley far right with general secs John Sheldon and Paul Noon

■■ 29 Jan 1994 – marching through Cheltenham on the 10th anniversary of the ban

■■ Jan 26 1984 – the protest begins with leafleting outside GCHQ, Cheltenham

■■ Nov 1989 – Mike Grindley and supporters mark the first anniversary of the sackings

February 2014  

Inside: 4 Holding back the tide – literally! Courageous Environment Agency; 5 News round-up – floods; energy pensions; air traffic control;...

February 2014  

Inside: 4 Holding back the tide – literally! Courageous Environment Agency; 5 News round-up – floods; energy pensions; air traffic control;...

Advertisement