Dorothy Byrne on unions at Granada

I went in as an NUJ member, and then I became… I moved over onto an ACTT membership – I was amazed at some of the rules. So when I arrived, I was told that under union rules, the crew had to be guaranteed a choice of two or three starters for their lunch and that my job was to ensure that on the story we went out to do that day, I find a place they could have lunch with a choice of starters. Well, I came from a newspaper! I couldn’t believe this, and I found it utterly demeaning as well. So when I was setting up the story for the day, the key thing that I had to work out for the story of the day was, could I find a pub, restaurant or café where there was a choice of two starters? I mean, some of that was ridiculous.

I can remember also going to interview for World in Action an elderly woman who had been mugged, and we went in, and there was a producer, a researcher, a PA, two sound men, two cameramen… I mean, I felt, “This is ridiculous.” I felt like we were mugging this old lady all over again because… you know. Were those people needed? Let’s be frank – of course they weren’t needed. Oh, and an electrician of course, and we were always told that the electrician was absolutely essential for safety. I mean, really? So it was inevitable that those things would go – they were unsustainable, and you couldn’t really argue for crews of that size being needed on a normal story.

I became the ACTT equality officer for Granada and I remember the national office asking us to do a survey of the number of people – they didn’t say ethnic minorities in those days, they said ‘black people’ – and I thought I couldn’t do that without doing the survey, because I counted the number of black people in Granada and as far as I could make out there were five. So at our Granada ACTT committee, I said, “We have been asked to do this survey, but it’s really quite easy for me to do it because I have counted them in the canteen and there are five.” At which, a man down the table, a member of the union, said, “And that’s five too many – they should go back home.” And the man next to him said, “Hear, hear!” And I said, “What do you mean, they should go back home? They come from here! What on earth are you talking about? So that was absolutely appalling –and one of the things that surprised me at Granada was that even the cleaners were white. It was so white. So here’s this company that thinks it’s all radical and fantastic and everything but actually in the north west at that time there were hundreds of thousands of people that weren’t white, and it shows how we’ve moved with the times that now in TV we would regard that as absolutely unacceptable. And you know, did the union take up the fact that women felt that men sexually harassed them? Well, no. I mean… and then, near the end of my time at Granada was when there were these waves of redundancies. I mean, that isn’t why I left, but… and then that changed the whole spirit of Granada because it just seemed to be redundancies after redundancies.

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