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Unite Oral History

Unite Oral History

By Andy Pearson
Unite the Union and the Marx Memorial Library are creating the largest collection of Oral Histories from working people. Sharing stories of struggle, collectivism and what it means to be a member and activist within the trade union movement.
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Franco Villani - A Safety Rep during a pandemic.
Unite’s FRANCO VILLANI has been presented with the TUC Health & Safety Wellbeing Representative of the Year Award for the Humber and Yorkshire Region. It was justly awarded for his work in helping to ensure that procedures have been adopted to protect his fellow workers at Bridlington Hospital during COVID19.
June 21, 2021
Our second interview with Mark Robertson
In part 2, Mark describes 2 successful strikes by Unite members in 2010 and 2014. “I hope I have given you an insight as to how low paid workers can organise…. We need to get into McDonalds, fast food industries… all workplaces have the potential for trade union organisation.” These are edited exerts of a much longer interview for the Unite Oral History project.
June 15, 2021
Becoming a shop steward in the 1980's - Mark Robertson
Mark Robertson worked at Tyneside Safety Glass in Gateshead from 1976 to 2020. In part 1 he describes becoming a union steward in the 1980s and how he was subsequently able to build an effective workplace union organization that in turn improved the wages and conditions of employees at a low paid workplace.
June 15, 2021
Mohammed Taj: - Tax avoidance and military mistakes
Mohammad Taj was a Bradford worker for over 40 years and in 2013 he was the first Asian person and first bus worker to hold the post of TUC President. In this piece he puts forward the case for a clampdown on tax avoidance. He also examines what he believes are Britain’s ill-fated military operations.
May 26, 2021
Mohammed Taj: - Racism, pride, presidency and tackling fascism!
Mohammad Taj was a Bradford worker for over 40 years and in 2013 he was the first Asian person and first bus worker to hold the post of TUC President. In this piece he recalls how, even in the most difficult of circumstances, he refused to accept racism. He also recalls from his early years how he became aware that many older Asian workers felt proud of their roles they had played in rebuilding Britain after WWII. He recalls his joy at becoming TUC President and what he sought to achieve during his one year in post. Finally In this piece he recalls how in 1981 support amongst bus drivers in Bradford was built for young people who had opposed fascism.
May 26, 2021
Mohammed Taj: - The Labour Party, pensions and employee ownership
In this piece he recalls how bus drivers at his workplace built a Labour Party workplace branch. This led to a number of workers becoming local councillors, which in turn ensured the issues bus workers wanted to pursue to defend their jobs and conditions were raised on important political bodies. Taj, who retired on a decent pension in 2015, argues for decent pensions for all. He also recalls the largely successful period in the 1980s and 90s when bus workers across West Yorkshire owned 49% of the company they worked for.
May 26, 2021
Mohammed Taj - My story
Mohammad Taj was a Bradford Bus tworker for over 40 years and in 2013 he was the first Asian person and first bus worker to hold the post of TUC President. In this piece he recalls the struggle to get more Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority members of the TGWU active across the union.
May 26, 2021
Allison Daykin - The impact of repetitive work patterns on women
Allyson Daykin of KP Foods in Rotherham was elected to the TGWU women’s regional and national committees from the mid-1980s through to the second half of the 1990s. In this podcast she describes how she won support for a union inquiry on the impact of repetitive workplace practices on women workers. When it was discovered that women were being injured it then proved possible to push some employers into adopting safer workplace procedures.
May 14, 2021
Fighting for equal pay
In 1971 and inspired by the 1970 Equal Pay Act, Allyson and her young workmates got organised at KP Foods and later won better terms and conditions. Victory initially though did not just mean challenging management practices! In 1971, aware that the 1970 Equal Pay Act had been enacted after the 1968 successful Ford sewing machinists strike at Dagenham, Rotherham’s Allyson Daykin and her badly exploited, mainly female, juvenile workmates at KP Foods sought to improve their wages and conditions. They quickly came up against resistance from the male dominated TGWU workplace branch and thus set out to organise themselves. In doing so Allyson was pushed forward and elected by her workmates to the role of shop steward, a position she fulfilled for 37 years. This 10-minute interview starts with Allyson describing how her working-class upbringing stood her in good stead when she began work at 15.
May 6, 2021
Racism growing up - Abdul Tan Rashid
Tan is a Unite activist and lay tutor, in this episode he discusses the importance of good teachers when faced with racism growing up!
April 20, 2021
My role as an equality rep - By Abdul Tan Rashid
In this episode Unite activist and lay tutor Tan Rashid explains his role as an equality rep in the workplace.
April 20, 2021
Interview with Abdul Tan Rashid - Why join a trade union
Tan is a Unite activist and lay tutor. In this series of podcasts Tan explains why people should join a union, his role as an equality rep and finally growing up and racism.
April 20, 2021
The Yorkshire Ambulance Dispute of 2013b - 2015
Paramedic Debbie Wilkinson, a long standing Unite member, speaks of the successful two-year (2013-15) battle, including a Leverage Campaign plus twelve days of strike action, the first strike in the NHS since the Ambulance Workers took action a quarter of a century earlier, to prevent Unite being derecognised by the Yorkshire Ambulance Service. For more on the background:-
April 19, 2021
1842 Halifax - Killing democracy!
Our working class histories are not taught in school. So we know little of the Luddites, the Tollpuddle martyrs, the Peterloo massacre or the Killing of Chartists in Halifax in 1842. In this podcast Catherine Howe narrates the tale of a fateful sunny day in Halifax West Yorkshire in 1842.
April 15, 2021
Jacob Goddard - Being a rep
Jacob shares his experiences of being a workplace rep.
April 9, 2021
Jacob Goddard - My experience of trade union education
This very short interview outlines Jacob's time in the classroom.
April 9, 2021
What does it mean to be a shop steward?
Our third interview with Richard Horsfield. Richard explains his role as a shop steward in the workplace.
March 22, 2021
Being a safety representative
As of March 2021, former miner Richard Horsfield is a Unite trade union tutor who for two decades up until 2020 was the Unite senior steward/convenor at Wavin near Holmfirth. In this 7-minute podcast he briefly explains the role of shop steward and safety rep.
March 22, 2021
The Miners strike of 1984 and the Battle of Orgreave
As of March 2021, Richard Horsfield is a Unite trade union tutor who for many years was the Unite senior steward/convenor at Wavin near Holmfirth. On leaving school in 1979, Richard worked for the National Coal Board and was active in the National Union of Mineworkers for over a decade during which he experienced the 1984/85 miners’ strike and the brutality of the police at the Orgeave coking works. This is Richard’s short story of his time as a coal miner.
March 22, 2021
Organising workers on Zero Hour Contracts part 2
The second part of our interview with Josh Berlyne. Josh also explores the need for younger people to learn more about, and more importantly to join a trade union!
March 18, 2021
Organising Workers on Zero Hours Contracts part 1
This is the first of two interviews with Josh Berlyne, who as a young worker, got involved in Unite the Union and began organising his colleagues in the hospitality sector on zero hour contracts.
March 18, 2021
The Miners Strike
Reflections on the miners strike by Allison Daykin.
March 15, 2021
Clause 4
Mark Metcalf's second interview with Allison Daykin. Allison reflects of New Labour and the removal of Clause 4 from Labours constitution.
March 15, 2021
Fighting the Poll Tax
The first in our series of interviews between writer and journalist Mark Metcalf and Allison Daykin. Allison has been active in the trade union movement for over 50 years!
March 15, 2021
Organising workers behind the Iron Curtain
The second part of writer and Journalist Mark Metcalf's interview with trade unionist Frank Robson.
March 12, 2021
Frank Robson - 1980 Truckers Strike
Frank Robson recalls the 1980 truckers strike in the first of two interviews with him for the Unite Oral History Project.
March 11, 2021
Welcome to Unite the Union's Oral History Podcast
We have created this podcast to share your stories. The stories of working people, their struggles, campaigns and wins. Why they became involved in the trade union movement and how it has changed lives!
March 11, 2021