Jon Woods on the importance of unions at Granada

Working at Granada is the only time I have ever been on strike, which was the ACTT strike not long after I joined, I think it was 1978 or 1979. I think we were on strike for 11 weeks, and that to me was a bit of a shocker, because it’s the only time in my life I’ve ever been on strike. So I understand the unions, and I was a union member, and I did a bit of rep work for them, in film ops. I think to some extent the unions had a role, and I think the down side of independent television was that it was a closed shop, and there were at times lots of issues with agreements. It became, in the end, a commercial agreement. You had to work… lots of projects had special deals to do it, to make it happen, with short crews… you know, when I started at Granada, my first experience of local news, Granada Reports, the film crew… it was shot on film in those days, and the features area, not just in news gathering, the features, who were doing longer films that were made, the crew was a cameraman, a camera assistant, a sound recordist, a boom swinger, a spark, a driver, a PA, a director and possibly a producer. So there could be eight or nine of you going out to make a little three-minute film. Now, that, today, youngsters today, who work in television, say, “What? How do you do that?” So it was run by the unions in terms of staffing levels, and I think there were an awful lot of management/union disagreements that… not soured, but it made you think twice about how things were doing. And it was a highly paid industry – nobody can deny that we were all very well-paid. And you have to be grateful to the unions for that, you also had to be grateful to independent television’s ethos of, you know, it wasn’t a hen laying golden eggs, but it was pretty close to that. Granada made a handsome profit, but they also ploughed back a lot of money into programme-making that they didn’t need to do. So I think that… so the down sides were very little to me. The union upsets were what upset me most.

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