Bruce Anderson recalls how he became the national president of the ACTT union

So you had become heavily involved in the union.

I was, sure. 1979, I think some of us were cheesed off with the way the negotiations had gone on, and of course the ACTT, although we had Alan Sapper, the left-winger, as general secretary, he didn’t really get involved in much of it until about the second month, he didn’t bother himself with things like that. Anyway, at the end of the strike, there was sort of a broad decision, I think… actually, quite a bit at Granada level, that we wanted to take more of a part in national politics, you might say, of ACTT, and very rapidly and very quickly I found myself elected to the national negotiating committee and was appointed/elected to be the chair of the negotiating committee. There was a slightly off set-up, there was the negotiating committee that had a chair, and also had a negotiating leader going from Yorkshire Television. But it did mean, I think, that Granada had quite a strong voice there on the future, and yes, at that point you could say that being a member of the negotiating committee was quite a responsible job and I was in London virtually every week, one day a week. There was always… even when we went back at the end of that long strike, there was an idea with the employers, well, that’s it, no problems now, it’s all going to be cleared up, and in fact it almost created a backlog of other problems, and the company – companies – took on a new head of human relations to chair all the negotiation problems, who was a former shop steward from Granada television, a guy called Sumner. His son worked for a long time as a film editor at Granada, I don’t know if he’s still got his own business, but his dad had a long time ago been a shop steward at Granada, and he took over as head of the negotiating team on behalf of the employers. I’ll give him his due, he came in and he said, “Right, let’s clear the decks, let’s get all the problems we’ve got and get them all sorted out and start with a clean book.” And we did, and I think relations were quite harmonious then, in all fairness, for some time.

But then again, what happened was, we were getting to the middle of the 1980s. By then, 1983, I was elected the national president of ACTT. As the chairman of the negotiating committee for the ITV division, I was also the chair of the trade union’s standing orders committee, so that at conference, I used to chair the standing orders committee, which meant that really we set the agenda, and if there were any problems, the then president of the union… Ron Bowie, a Granada film cameraman, was always in a bit of a muddle, he didn’t really quite understand the rulebook, to him it was a bit academic. So most of the annual conferences where Ron Bowie presided, and the general council meetings that we held quarterly, were constant chaos. Constant chaos. And people said it was a breath of fresh air when I took over as the chair of the standing orders committee. I reckon for a couple of conferences, although I was only the chair of the standing orders committee, I reckon that in effect, people were saying, “You are virtually running the show.” Ron would turn to be and say, “What do we do next, Bruce? What do we do next?” and I’d say, “Well, the next procedure we should follow is the so-and-so.” And then there was a major rewrite of the ACTT rule book, and because I was the chairman of the standing orders committee I was very much involved in that. We had this special rules revision meeting, special conference, and people said, “We can’t do it – all these proposals we put forward, we can’t do it.” And in fact, we did. I simply said, “Look, if you agree to one pivotal rule change at the beginning, everything will follow through in place, unless people really challenge it.” And we did – in virtually a day, there was a long debate about whether there should be these major changes, then there was an agreement, quite a good, numerical agreement, that we should change the rule book to the extent that we had put forward, and it all fell into place – and then about three months later it was the AGM, and nominations had to be in for a new president, and challenge the existing president, and my name was put forward by the writer’s section, who I always got on very well with. He said, “Oh, you’re the person to chair it in future.” So again, at the tender age of 33, I was elected the national president, which was a bit of a surprise I think. This was 1983, when I was 35 or 36. From 1983 to 1988, yes. I was 36. And of course, before then, apart from Ron…Ron Bowie had only become president because Bolt – do you remember Bolt, the screenwriter?

Robert Bolt?

Robert Bolt, from Sale, had had a massive stroke and couldn’t work – and part of that was that he was president of the union, and that the senior vice president was Ron Bowie, so Ron Bowie had never been elected president, he just came in and took over. And before Bolt… it tended to be some grandee from the film world. I was the first ordinary working member to be elected; there had been this tendency for sort of grandees… Anthony Askwith was one of the notable ones. And also there had never been any set period of office, other than the annual re-election, and in fact when I took over, it had been decided there would be a fixed term of office for five years. You had to be re-elected each year, you had to stand for election, but you couldn’t do it for more than five years – so I did it from 1983 to 1988, and again generously the company said at that time, “Take what time you need,” which again was probably a day or two a week that I was in London on trade union business.

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