50th Anniversary of Roberts Arundel Strike Discussion and Exhibition
Thursday, 16 November 2017 | 7pm - 10.30pm
The 50th anniversary of the Roberts Arundel strike is marked by an exhibition is organised by Stockport Trades Union Council and now showing at Stockport Local Heritage Library in the Central Library, Wellington Road South, SK1 3RS, Monday to Saturday till early December.
Throughout 1967 Stockport captured national headlines. One hundred and fifty workers walked out late November 1966 when their new boss Robert Pomeranz from North Carolina refused to talk to the union. The issue was his decision to start a handful of women working at a lower rate than men had been paid for doing the same work until Pomeranz had made them redundant a few weeks earlier. The dispute quickly escalated when in less than a week he sacked every striker – only four shop floor workers didn’t join the action – and immediately advertised 235 jobs in the Manchester Evening News. Despite numerous attempts to settle the dispute, the strike lasted until April 1968 when Pomeranz finally closed the factory.
The strikers quickly organised support. They visited hundreds of factories, warehouses, haulage companies and docks to ask for workers to refuse to handle Roberts Arundel goods. At Manchester Airport, ground staff told KLM to remove a machine from a cargo plane or no KLM flight would ever take off from Manchester Airport again. Together with other donations, a weekly levy of engineering workers across Stockport, Manchester, Ashton and Oldham raised £95,000 – equivalent to £1,500,000 today.
In February 1967, a mass picket with support from workers at the Shell Carrington site, marched to the factory and put a brick through every one of its windows. In September and October the Stockport Trades Union Council organised Weeks of Action with workers joining the picket every weekday morning and afternoon and a march and rally in Stockport on Saturday.
Drawing on the archives of the Working Class Movement Library in Salford, local photographer Darren Ord has scanned and mounted the images which show how the strike made Stockport national news for over a year.
On the evening of Thursday 16 November the exhibition will be moved to the Seven Miles Out Arts Centre where local labour movement historian Geoff Brown will use a short illustrated talk to lead off a discussion of the importance of the strike.
Stockport Trades Union Council President Sharza Dethick looks forward to people visiting the exhibition and leaving their comments. In her view, the dispute ‘is an important example of people’s support for dignity and justice at work. Stockport can be proud of the solidarity shown during the strike. We still need such solidarity today.’