Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 10 March 2010

Justice for the Shrewsbury pickets

In 1972, 31 pickets were arrested and put on trial in Shrewsbury, 24 were convicted. The Tory government was trying to wreak revenge on striking building workers, after being given a bloody nose by the miners and the dockers.

Severe prison sentences were dished out to six of the pickets. The best known were Des Warren and Ricky Tomlinson, the "Shrewsbury 2." Des died as a direct result of the treatment he got in prison and all 24 were blacklisted after the strike.

Successive governments have refused to clear their name. But the campaign has been revived and is calling for a public inquiry into the prosecutions. They are also demanding the release of government documents from 1972 and 1973 that detail the involvement of the security services, including MI5, in the cases.

Jane James recently interviewed one of the campaigners, Pete Farrell.

What is the latest situation on the campaign?

It's going to be a hard fight to get a public inquiry. Each time we go to the home secretary Jack Straw, a few more little bits come out but the key points are still secret because of 'national security'.

But now we feel the campaign is going to grow. The next stage will be to take the campaign to Jack Straw's doorstep. The idea is to hold a meeting in Blackburn and launch a very active campaign with stalls on the streets and petitions. We want to approach the unions to provide thousands of leaflets and posters.

We want to walk up and down outside Straw's house. We want to have a press conference where we will challenge him and ask why after 30 odd years all this remains a state secret.

The march in Shrewsbury is going to be an annual event like Tolpuddle and we want the trade unions to sponsor coaches to that every year.

Could the labour movement have done more at the time?

They could have got them out. In 1972 the miners had just defeated the Tory government. They attempted to bring in the Industrial Relations Act to police the unions. It was the first real crisis of capitalism and they attempted to make the working class pay for that crisis.

The Pentonville dockers were arrested and jailed. But with virtually every dock in the country coming to a standstill and 60,000 workers surrounding the prison, they released the dockers.

Sometime after that the engineering union AUEW had its funds seized and was fined. Thousands of people poured out of the factories and threatened a general strike - the employers paid the fine themselves.

The Tory government criminalised the Shrewsbury pickets. They used the 1875 Conspiracy Act, which gave the opportunity to the trade union leaders to run away. Many of them claimed that the pickets had broken the law and all we could do was appeal.

But there was support from trade unionists for all-out action to free the pickets. A march from Wigan to London was supported by thousands of workers in London. But as Des Warren said in his book, the key to his cell lay on the TUC's table, but they never picked it up.

What is the density of trade union membership in the building industry today?

Back in the 1970s there were huge direct labour organisations (DLOs) employed by the councils. Camden had something like 1,200 workers - it was the first DLO to go out in the national strike.

Some sites are organised today but with unelected convenors. The employers are allowing the unions on to the site, the unions get the subs but they tone down the militancy - the so-called sweetheart deals.

Have things improved in the building industry?

There's not as many trade union-organised jobs, but overall there has been a drop in the number of deaths, there were three deaths a week at one time.

I'm the chair of the Construction Safety Campaign (CSC) and we've put a lot of pressure on the trade union leaders to take health and safety issues seriously since it was set up over 20 years ago.

But workers are not just getting killed outright, there's thousands of deaths from exposure to asbestos, dust and chemicals. Many retire and die and they are not recorded as construction deaths.

Workers Memorial Day on 28 April every year was started really by the CSC and the Hazards movement. In London for example it is us who are organising it every year.

But in the last few years more trade unions, including most of the construction unions have become involved. And the campaign is having an effect on government policies.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.

In The Socialist 10 March 2010:

Fight the cuts, not union members

Don't let Unison democracy go up in smoke!

Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition

Young voters need real change

Socialist Party feature

Michael Foot - the end of an era

Socialist Party news and analysis

Trades Council demo unites Brighton fightback

Riot cops attack peaceful Sussex students' protest

Police clear path for racist EDL thugs

Anti-war campaigner Joe Glenton gets nine months

Civil servants strike

Civil Servants Strike reports (updated)

Solid two-day civil service strike shows anger of PCS members

Socialist Party NHS campaign

Hands off our NHS!

International socialist news and analysis

Palestine: 'The Wall Must Fall!'

Chile earthquake: Natural disaster, state catastrophe

Socialist Party campaigns

Debate on women's oppression: Socialists propose solutions

Waltham Forest day of action: Socialists and trade unionists make a stand

Canvassing for support for socialists in Lewisham

Build solidarity with Sri Lankan Tamils

Solidarity with Yarl's Wood hunger strikers

National Shop Stewards Network: For undivided rank and file organisation

Justice for the Shrewsbury pickets

Socialist Party workplace news

London Underground signals victory

Leeds university rally

CWU to put Royal Mail deal to ballot of members

Socialist Party review

Tower Block of Commons


Home   |   The Socialist 10 March 2010   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  

Related links:


triangleWorkplace news in brief

triangleTownsend Productions presents two critically acclaimed pieces of socialist theatre

triangleTheatre Review: United We Stand

triangleShrewsbury 24: What is the government hiding?

triangleSupport the Shrewsbury pickets


triangleNHS - build the fightback

triangleNHS we're ready to fight

triangleLocal government workers' reps reject 2% pay offer

triangleVictory for school cleaners!

Ricky Tomlinson:

triangleConference on state spies: who's watching who?

triangleWho's watching who?: The fight for justice, trade union and democratic rights

triangleNewcastle: Socialist Party defies ban to counter the far-right

Reports and campaigns

Reports and campaigns



After 80 strike days Mears workers achieve victory



Building the campaign against clearances of the working class



No fudge with the right wing



TUSC statement on sentencing of Derby TUSC agent



Haringey protests HDV - but Labour fails to kill it off completely



Uni strike: coordinate public sector fightback



Enjoyable and successful Cardiff Refugee Rights gig



Carlisle debate - socialism or social democracy?



Staines fire services saved



Threat of action defeats pay cut at Surrey council



Woolwich Crossrail walkouts to demand promised bonuses



Sadiq Khan's bus drivers' London licence doesn't go far enough



Stop press: victory - campaign saves NHS rehab ward



Teachers strike again as anti-academy pressure mounts



Unison national women's conference

triangleMore Reports and campaigns articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777


Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 0798 202 1969

East Mids: 0773 797 8057

London: 020 8988 8786

North East: 0191 421 6230

North West 07769 611 320

South East: 020 8988 8777

South West: 07759 796 478

Southern: 07833 681910

Wales: 07935 391 947

West Mids: 02476 555 620

Yorkshire: 0114 264 6551



Alphabetical listing

February 2018

January 2018