Steve Anderson on the eleven week ITV strike in 1979


It was very bruising because I was… Andy Harries and I were the joint FoCs, Fathers of the Chapel, for the NUJ. And because the NUJ was never ever particularly considered a television union, it was a print union, as far as television people were considered. There was no, certainly at national level, there was very little recognition of the NUJ within television. As far as the ACCT were concerned, all the creatives worked for them. NATKE had the secretaries and the clerical. For the ETU, it was the sparks. But the ACCT wanted… everybody on World in Action was in the ACCT. And so, journalists were… It was a threat to their… what’s the word? It was closed shop, essentially. They didn’t want this rival creative base. So talks were going on at a national level and the NUJ were excluded from them.

And then the strike was called. And within Granada, even though the Granada studios knew that we were excluded, there was a sort of expectation that we would join the strike anyway because we all worked so closely with everybody and we were supportive. There was clearly going to be resentment that we were going to get paid while every… and also, the strike would not then be 100% if we were officially working. But I got summoned down to London. Vincent Hanna who was the sort of legendary BBC presenter was the chairman of the NUJ broadcasting council, and he just ordered all of the ITV union officials, in no uncertain terms, that no matter what pressure we came under locally, we could not join the strike. The NUJ was not on strike. The NUJ had been excluded from the national talks. So our members were going to continue to get paid. We had no right to take them out on strike, because it would not be recognised nationally. We would then be liable for our members’ pay.

So there would be some resentment from the other unions, was there, towards the NUJ?

Yes. Yes. I mean, we came under a lot of pressure from the ACCT, from the stewards in Manchester, about our position. And they wanted us out. And we just said, “We can’t come out. Go and speak to your national officers.” But then every week, we’d have a meeting at the Manchester press club. We used to have big rows about whether we should join the strike anyway. But people expected to be paid, but because there’s nobody in Granada to actually process the payments because they were all on strike, but it was very important for Granada to pay the NUJ members. So I used to go to the car park lodge on the way to the Manchester press club, I think it was every Wednesday morning, and Jules Burns would come out and give me a big, fat, brown envelope with everybody’s wages attached separately. So full of cash. And I’d take this envelope full of cash down to the Manchester Press Club and I would distribute it one by one to the people.

That’s great, that’s great.

Now, what we did, to be fair, as I say there were a lot of people, a lot of NUJ people who did want to join the strike and felt uneasy about being paid while their colleagues were not being paid. And so there were actually very big donations made to the hardship fund that had been set up by the ACTT, from those NUJ members who went on strike.

Were you father of the chapel?

Yes. Andy and I were the joint fathers of the chapel, yes. Because I was officially in Liverpool and he was in Manchester.


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