Steve recalls life on the shop committee

I was a strong trade unionist. I’d had a trade union scholarship to Ruskin College at Oxford. So I’d been a strong trade unionist all my life, my father was a very strong trade unionist, and have been secretary of his local engineering union branch. So coming to Granada, I mean, yes, it was a closed shop, and I joined the union. In terms of my union activity of Granada, I didn’t do a lot for some years. I always felt that the researchers at Granada didn’t get a very good deal. The producers got a good deal, and I thought the NUJ guys got a good deal. But the researchers didn’t get much of a deal. So one day, I’m talking to Malcolm Foster, I think I was out on a shoot with Malcolm Foster, who was a shop steward. He was chair of the shop committee. And I said, “Can you not help us researchers?” He said, “I can, but he why don’t you get onto the committee?” The shop committee was representative of all the various sections, like camera, sound, producers, directors, and so on. And I said, “Well, there are no researchers on the committee, you don’t have a spot for researchers.” And he said, “I can change that. There’s no reason why you can’t have one.” This is the ACTT. He said, “I’ll sort that, so you can have a rep, and decide amongst yourselves who you want.” So we did that, and of course I got nominated by all the researchers to be the representative of the researchers.

 So I went onto the shop committee, and was on the shop committee for a couple of years, I think, and managed to improve. If issues came up, I knew that I could go to the ACTT and the company would listen to it. Previous to that, if you had a grudge or problem, the company weren’t bothered about the researchers because they didn’t have the backing of the ACTT. But as soon as Malcolm Foster went with you to the sixth floor with a problem, it was solved. Because they were frightened of ACTT, which was great. So we made quite a few advances for researchers, and almost came to one or two major disputes. But they were eventually resolved. so that was good. I enjoyed being on the shop committee. We met once a week, Tuesday lunchtime, in one of the committee rooms. And there were people like Jim Grant, later to be Lee Child, who was on the shop committee, John Scarratt. Carolyn Reynolds represented the PAs, the production assistants. She went on to dizzy heights. And there was always a producer representative, which a lot of the time was Sandy Ross, again, he went on to become managing director of Scottish Television. We got some good deals. 

I do remember, there was a turning point on the shop committee where things suddenly changed. There was a lot of freelancing going on anyhow, and the company were making people redundant and freelancing them. But it was to do with the This Morning programme. The network said that they wanted to do a morning magazine programme, which was going to be two and a half hours of morning, live broadcasting. And Granada was really interested in doing this. And they had a plan that they would do it from Liverpool. They thought, “That’ll look really good done from the Albert Dock in Liverpool.” But the problem was that the Union had a rule that if you travelled more than 35 miles, you were entitled to an overnight payment, plus breakfast, plus lunch, plus evening meal, plus rest and refreshment. That requires a lot of money per day. And had that rule be maintained, it would cost the company a fortune. Because we’re talking about everyone going over there – cameramen, PAs, producers, researchers, huge team. So the company had come to Granada and said, “Look, if we get this contract, this guarantees a massive amount of work for the entire duration of the contract for 50, 60 people or whatever.” Two and a half hours of live broadcasting per day was enormous, going out on the network. So the union pondered this and company said, “Look, you’re going to have to relax that rule. Otherwise, it’s just not worth it.” So the union agreed to relax the rule, and in a way they took the finger out of the dam. And the dam soon burst open.

Leave a Reply