Bruce Anderson talks about the long strike of 1979 at Granada and how it was resolved

All through that period of the late 70s, there was an unsettled atmosphere, which culminated in 1979 with this long strike of three months, which started – if my memory is correct – around the issue of new technology. It started in London with a few people going on strike, I think, at Thames, and then it started to escalate. The management, I think, on a national basis, exercised their right to a ‘lock-out’; they gave seven days’ notice of lock-out. …..

Oh, it was about money because we wanted more money for some of the aspects of new technology I think the employers inevitably wanted to capitalise on new patterns of working; new styles of camera were not necessarily going to need quite a big crew; you could do far more editing, so you didn’t need so many people working in a studio, in reality, on production. You could work on a production outside, shooting drama outside with two cameras and a couple of operators, and one or two assistants; you could make material à la film, in a sense, because there were good editing facilities coming in. There was a whole range of things that were being kicked around by both management and the trade unions, and in 1979, the real issue became in the end that Thatcher was elected, the Tory government was elected, and when for the previous three years we’d had requests put in for an increased pay rise to cover some of these aspects of new technology and new equipment, new patterns of working, you could get away with certain things, like certain productivity deals, but I think the company didn’t want to be giving money for productivity deals, so in 1979 when the new government came in, and what had been the Labour government’s restriction on pay rises, which had been limited, at the same time inflation was racing away, and to have a settlement of seven to 10 per cent was not unusual, so I think we had asked for seven and a half per cent, maybe 10, and the employer completely turned around and said, “No, we’re not paying all that.” So we found ourselves saying, “Well, we definitely want 12 and a half per cent,” and then I think there was a bit of a break-out, I think at Thames, there was some trouble there about new technology, then BUMPH, it all escalated, and we were all locked out.

Did you expect to be locked out for so long?

No, not in the slightest, I don’t think. I remember Quinn saying to me, “When we get this one sorted out, we’ll see what your mettle’s made of.” ……

10 or 11 weeks, wasn’t it? Virtually three months. What I remember was, initially, the employers really dug in, led, I believe, by Granada. Granada really were hawks, they were saying, “We’re not forking out all this money,” and they were very much against the national agreement, they didn’t like the national agreement, they said they couldn’t do much better deals locally. It was happening all the time, there were little deals being negotiated, but anyway, as you know, we were out for 10 or 11 weeks, and I think at the end of the day we considered it was a triumphant return, because we had an 18-month settlement, which was worth 46 and a half per cent, and of course during that period. It was surprising, people did go of and get jobs and do bits and bobs, stayed on the picket line… there had been a month’s strike in 1970 at Granada, I don’t know if you remember that, that was again about the company wanting to re-equip and so on, and that was in the month leading up to the General Election in 1970 when Labour lost. But that was certainly a local strike, and there we were all… the rest of the union, the rest of the circuit, you might say, they all chipped in to a strike fund, so in fact the people at Granada more or less kept their money flowing all the time – we were not out of pocket. But 1979 was obviously a long strike, and we eventually came back to work – in fact, the company even loaned us a month’s pay when we came back!


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