Tagged: Mick Whelan

Failure to back Miners’ Strike strike weakened union movement, says miners’ leader

Labour Party leaders and union chiefs who did not support the miners’ strike in the 1980s helped weaken the movement, a miners’ leader says.

Thousands of people will flock to Durham City on Saturday (July 12) for the 130th Durham Miners’ Gala, which marks 30 years since the start of the bitter dispute.

In his programme notes, Dave Hopper, general secretary of Gala organisers the Durham Miners’Association, says declassified documents reveal that the Thatcher Government was determined “to butcher the coalfields and smash the National Union of Mineworkers.

He praises politicians and unions who supported the strike.

But he continues:“At the same time, these revelations should shame those trade unions and Labour Party leaders who did not support our strike.

“Those who refused to come to our aid bear a huge responsibility, not just for our defeat, but for weakening the whole trade union movement.

“They will be remembered in the former coalfield of Britain just as we remember those so-called leaders who betrayed the 1926 General Strike.

“The refusal of New Labour, during 13 years of government, to repeal the anti-trade union legislation, which was used to defeat us, only compounds their shame.”

 Mr Hopper goes on to say that the “lack of a radical alternative” is turning hundreds of thousands of people off politics and that he believes Labour would regain support if it campaigned “with passion and commitment”to reverse privatisation.

Five new banners will be on display at the Gala – Fenhall Drift Mine, Lanchester; St Hilda Colliery, South Shields; New Brancepeth Colliery, County Durham; a UNITE Community Membership Banner and West Rainton Primary School’s Adventure Pit banner.

The parade through the city to the racecourse will start at about 8.30am.

There will be a funfair, various stalls and entertainment, including folk singer Benny Graham, on the field throughout the day.

Speeches will be made between 12.15pm and 2.30pm.

The speakers are Bolsover Labour MP Dennis Skinner, Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB, Prison Officers Association general secretary Steve Gillan, NUT general secretary Christine Blower, and Mick Whelan, general secretary of ASLEF.

Mr Hopper says Labour leader Ed Miliband was “sounded out” about attending the Gala, but nothing had been heard from him.

The blessing of banners service in Durham Cathedral starts at 3pm.

Delegations from Germany, Ukraine and Ireland are expected to attend.

Details, including events marking the strike anniversary, are at http://www.durhamminers.org

Source –  Durham Times,  10 July 2014

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Durham Miners’ Gala will be tinged with sadness following deaths of Bob Crow and Tony Benn

The 130th Durham Miners’Gala will be tinged with sadness following the deaths of two leading figures of the Labour movement.

The event, on Saturday, July 12, is set to draw thousands of people to the city centre to watch the parade of banners and brass bands.

Tony Benn and Bob Crow, who died within days of each other in March, were popular speakers who appeared several times at the Big Meeting.

Mr Benn, the former veteran Labour MP who renounced his hereditary peerage, spoke at 20 Galas and also attended when he was not one of the speakers.

Mr Crow, general secretary of the RMT transport union, delivered a call from the platform at last year’s Gala for unions to form a new political party to fight for their interests.

Labour leader Ed Milliband once declined a Gala invitation because he didn’t want to share the platform with a “militant’’union leader.

Dave Hopper, secretary of the Durham Miners Association, which organises the event, said: “We will be saying goodbye to those comrades.

“Gresford (the miners’ hymn that is always played at the Gala) this year will have a special significance because we have had a number of funerals of good comrades.”

 One of the Gala’s most popular speakers, Dennis Skinner, the Labour MP nicknamed the Beast of Bolsover, will return to the platform.

The 82-year-old former miner, who is renowned for his wit and entertaining speaking style, last addressed the event in 2011.

The line-up is completed by GMB general secretary Paul Kenny and Gala first timers Mick Whelan, general secretary of the rail union ASLEF, Steve Gillan, general secretary of the Prison Officers’ Association, and Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers.

Mr Hopper added: “We have a delegation of miners coming from the Ukraine and we are hoping one of them will say a few words about the very troubled and dangerous situation in that country.”

For details of the Gala and events in the run-up to it visit http://www.durhamminers.org

Source –  Durham Times, 02 July 2014

Legal battle looms over sell off of East Coast main line

Rail unions have launched a legal battle with the Coalition Government over the sale of the East Coast Main Line.

They claim the planned “re-privatisation” of the service before the next general election in 2015 is being rushed through and that ministers have “cut corners”.

The rail unions Aslef and the TSSA said their members’ jobs and conditions, as well as the interests of passengers and taxpayers, were being threatened by a lack of consultation.

They are seeking a judicial review over the matter and are also challenging extensions to the Thameslink and Great Northern franchises.

Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan said: “It is imperative that we raise the genuine concerns of all stakeholders but, especially, the employees before this is rushed through. We cannot, in good conscience, allow the mistakes of the past to happen again.”

The East Coast Main Line franchise, which runs from Edinburgh, through the North East to London, has been in Government hands since November 2009 when the then franchise holders National Express gave it up, saying it could not afford to run it any more.

Before that, from 1996 to December 2007, it had been run by Great North Eastern Railway before it had the franchise taken away due to poor financial management.

It has been run for the Government since 2009 by Directly Operated Railways, which last year returned more than £200m to taxpayers as a result of its stewardship of the line.

In January the Government published a shortlist of three bids to run it as part of plans for the rail route’s re-privatisation. The bidders were FirstGroup, a joint bid from Eurostar and French firm Keolis, and another from Virgin and Stagecoach.

RMT acting general secretary Mick Cash said: “After the scandal of this Government robbing the British taxpayer of a billion pounds in the scramble to privatise the Royal Mail it is shocking that they are engaging in the same tactics to try and hand the East Coast Main Line back to their friends in big business.

“The British public have a right to openness and transparency when it comes to the ideologically-driven attempt to sell off Britain’s most successful rail-route to the speculators and chancers after two previous private sector failures on the same line.”

TSSA leader Manuel Cortes said: “The coalition knows only too well that rail franchising is not fit for purpose. Rail workers are at a loss to understand why the Government insists on going forward with a broken system which threatens the interests of passengers and taxpayers.

“We can only conclude that the ideology which saw Royal Mail flogged off on the cheap continues to thrive.”

A Department for Transport spokeswoman said: “We will vigorously defend this claim and remain committed to the franchising programme.

“As these legal proceedings are ongoing it would not be appropriate to comment further at this stage.”

Source – Newcastle Journal  07 April 2014