John remembers Jim Grant (aka Lee Child) and some awkward times as Shop Steward

Right, so we move on now to I was deputy steward for the union BECTU under Jimmy Grant in 1994, when Jimmy was Shop Steward. Now, you probably know Jim better as Lee Child.

So, I was deputy steward under Jim from 1994 to 1997, and I remember Jim telling me as a transmission controller, it was to be automated, and everything was going to Leeds, and the transmission control area in Granada would be defunct in a couple of years’ time. But not to worry, I’d have to represent him at his redundancy meeting because he couldn’t represent himself. Normally you’d have the Shop Steward with you, so I went up with Jim, because he’d said under no circumstances was I to try and save his job. I said, “Why?” He said, “I’ve just had an advance from my publishers.” I think it was £50,000, and everything was going well, for a thriller he was writing, it was his first book. And he said, “And if they agree that it’s good and I’d go ahead with the full novel, I get another £120,000.” Bloody hell, Jim. Well, that was quite a lot of money in 1977. Next Friday, he said. “So all I want you to do is to maximise the amount of money I can get out of Granada, because they’re screwing my job anyway.” So I didn’t have to do anything at all about saving his job, which was inevitable anyway, because everything was money-orientated by then, and if they could get rid of somebody on £60,000, £70,000 a year, that was a really good… you know?

Jim left in 1997, and because nobody else wanted the job of Shop Steward, it fell to me to become shop steward for a while. So now the company was being run by the two upstart caterers who wanted even more savings, so the house agreement was under severe attack. We used to get nice benefits like three times the pay, or two times the pay and a day off in lieu if you worked on a bank holiday, things like that, and they wanted to change that all, so you only ever got one and a half T on a bank holiday. When you pointed out to the company that one and a half T on a bank holiday was only really half T because everybody else got paid for the bank holiday, whether they worked it or not. You know? “Well, that’s tough.” Anyway, so what we did was, the company were determined to slash as many of our benefits as they could. Although we were willing to talk, the company weren’t and sought to impose it from a certain date. 

So, I can’t remember exactly when, but it was late 1997. I held a shop meeting and the members suggested a ballot for industrial action. There was new legislation introduced by Margaret Thatcher, which said that you now had to have a ballot and you had to have seven days’ notice and you had to wait two weeks for the results of the ballot and everything else, but surprisingly for myself and the company, votes in favour of the full stoppage were… sorry, the voting was 68% of the membership, and of those 68% that voted, voted 97% in favour of full industrial action. Not only was I gobsmacked, but I think the company were as well. So I was summoned to Brenda Smith’s office and full proper negotiations were put back on the table. It was a terrifying period as stop steward, because I didn’t really know what I was doing – although I had two brilliant union officials helping me. It was Freda Chapman and Gerry Morrissey. Gerry became chair of the union and he subsequently retired. Eventually we agreed a few small changes to the house agreement to bring it up to date, but we received a good compensation package in return.

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