Doncaster’s New Mayor Supports Strike-Breaking

June 22, 2009

25 years ago Doncaster’s towns and villages were physically attacked by a Tory government hell-bent on destroying the unions and close-knit communities whose collective strength presented an obstacle to the greed-centred, Thatcherite/Neoliberal economic policy (the economic policy that led directly to today’s global recession). Thanks to the miners strike Doncaster remains one of the poorest regions in the UK.

25 years on and a wannabe Tory (he was kicked out of the Tory party for tax evasion), Peter Davies, is now the most powerful man in the Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council (DMBC). Our 1-Star council has, of course, been plagued by corruption, nefarious – ‘jobs-for-the-boys’ – self-interests and outright ineptitude for years, but anyone who thinks that Davies will change anything is sadly mistaken. This man represents the very forces that brought Doncaster to it’s knees in the first place.

Davies is a member of the right-wing Freedom Association (FA). In the 1970s the FA was known as the National Association For Freedom (NAFF by name…); the NAFF were most famous for their strike-breaking activities.

In 1976 workers at the Grunwick Film Processing Laboratories in North London were taking action over poor pay and working conditions. ACAS made conciliation attempts but the employer, George Ward, rejected all offers and by October 1976 the TUC was calling for ‘sympathetic action’ by other unions. On 22 June 1977, Arthur Scargill brought miners from Yorkshire, South Wales and Kent to join the mass pickets. Bloody scenes between the police and the pickets were broadcast on television. The Labour Government decided to commission an enquiry under Lord Scarman and the pickets were called off in mid-July to wait for the result of the enquiry. APEX announced it would abide by the outcome of the enquiry but Ward did not.

Grunwick processed photographic film and needed to post the results to their customers, as such they relied heavily on the Royal Mail for business, but postal workers were sympathetic to the strikers and members of the Union of Post Office Workers (UPW) refused to handle post from Grunwick during the dispute. Under the Post Office Act 1953 it was illegal for Post Office workers to ‘wilfully delay’ the delivery of mail, so NAFF stepped forward to sue the union.

Despite this the local Cricklewood branch of the UPW voted to again stop delivering Grunwick’s mail. The staff were subsequently suspended, thus closing down the postal service in the region. In retaliation the NAFF organised its own operation to deliver Grunwick’s mail themselves. According to the BBC documentary Tory! Tory! Tory!, activists picked up the mail from Grunwick’s took it to a farmhouse in Shropshire, stamped it and posted it in post boxes across the country.

grunwick

Click here for the full story.

Davies may be a disgraced Tory, but he’s still a Tory through and through. When he and his ilk talk about ‘freedom’, they mean freedom for the rich to do whatever they like and bollocks to the rest of society. People who voted for him should think about that the next time they read a report about Doncaster’s 80% child poverty rate.

We have to confess that we were guilty of complacency with regard to the Mayoral elections, like many people we expected Mick Maye – a man with far greater honour and integrity – to walk it. But we don’t believe that any amount of elections can fix democracy in Doncaster.

The DMBC is a total shambles with nearly every department underachieving in national league tables; less than 5% of public money is spent by publicly accountable bodies; we have an elected mayor who can override council voting; parish councillors (who should stand as the first line of democracy) have been stripped of any real power. As things currently stand there is NO democracy in Doncaster.

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