GRUNWICK: chronology of events


Grunwick Processing –
a firm that processed black and white and colour photographs for individual and business customers, using the postal service to receive films and dispatch processed photos – is established by George Ward with Tony Grundy and John Hickey. Ward became the Chairman and the chief spokesperson.

Several thousand Indians fled Kenya for the United Kingdom due to discriminatory practices by the ruling government.

Jayaben Desai (the future leader of the strike) and family join her husband from Bombay, having left Tanzania in 1964.

Grunwick moves to Willesden (Neasden), London NW10.

General Idi Amin, expelled almost all of Uganda’s 80,000 Asians and seized their property See link []

First dispute for union recognition at Grunwick (some workers who had joined the Transport and General Workers Union (TGWU) were made redundant).

Jayaben Desai starts working at Grunwick.

Grunwick leases premises at Chapter Road, London NW2 from Brent Council.

20 August
Afternoon – Devshi Bhudia was sacked from the Grunwick mail order department in Chapter Road and three other young men walk out in protest.

20 August
Early evening – Jayaben Desai and her son Sunil walked out in protest.

23 August
Morning – the first picket of Grunwick since 1973; Sunil Desai goes to the Citizen’s Advice Bureau to find a Trade Union. Speaks to the TUC who advise her to join APEX.

23 August 3pm Over 50 workers walk out of Grunwick Chapter Road plant, demanding the right to join a trade union. Marched to Cobbald Road where about 25 other workers join the strike.

24 August Jack Dromey, Secretary of Brent Trades Council meets strikers at 11am. Organises a meeting at Trades Hall in the evening, and the election of a strike committee. APEX (The Association of Professional, Executive, Clerical and Computer Staff) recruits over 60 new members.

24 August
Management offers reinstatement if union representation is dropped; workers stay out.

31 August
APEX declares the strike official; ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) offers mediation; Grunwick management refuses.

1 September
Grunwick receives official letter from APEX seeking a meeting.

2 September
Grunwick sacks the 137 strikers.

14 September
Jayaben Desai taken to hospital after management car passes over her foot. Police refuse to act.

20 September
Police arrest one picket for obstruction.

23 September
Unidentified woman hospitalised after being knocked down by management car.

5 October
Roy Grantham, General Secretary of APEX asks Secretary of State, Albert Booth to set up a court of inquiry into the dispute.

7 October
Len Murray, General Secretary of TUC, asks unions to give all possible assistance to AEX, including boycotting Grunwick’s services.

15 October
Lobby of Parliament. APEX officially refers the dispute to ACAS upon the advice of the Secretary of State for Employment.

1 November
Union of Post–Office Workers (UPW) “black” (ie refuse to handle) Grunwick mail. Police arrest 9 pickets.

4 November
Emergency debate in Parliament on Grunwick. UPW forced to abandon blacking under threat of legal action and in return for a promise from Grunwick to cooperate with ACAS.

25 November
Grunwick increases wages to non–striking workers by 15 per cent.

12 December
Len Murray, General Secretary of the TUC, supports strikers at Brent Trades Hall.

29 December
ACAS despair of winning Grunwick’s cooperation for a ballot of the workforce; no cooperation from the company.

27 January
Grunwick strikers picket chemist shops (where the mail order photographs were despatched and received).

17 February
APEX accepts recognition as proposed in draft ACAS report.

28 February
Survey by company of employees still working in Grunwick finds over all (86.4%) in favour of retaining the status quo (ie no union membership or recognition). None of the strikers were part of the survey.

10 March
ACAS publish final report which finds in favour of the strikers, and recognises the union. Police arrest 4 pickets and the Grunwick management challenges recommendation to recognise APEX.

23 March
51 dismissed strikers complain of unfair dismissal. London Industrial Tribunal rules it has no jurisdiction in the case. General Council of the TUC turns down first request by APEX for blacking of essential services to Grunwick.

27 March
1400 trade unionists and supporters march through Willesden in support of the strike.

1 April
Grunwick increases wages “across the board” by 10%.

3 May
Arrested pickets found not guilty in Middlesex Crown Courts, police are censured and ordered to pay costs.

19 May
Three government ministers (Shirley Williams, Fred Mulley and Dennis Howell) join picket line.

13–17 June
Mass picket called for one week.

13 June
Police arrest 84 pickets on first day of mass picket.

14 June
Bus used to drive ‘loyal workers’ through the picket line.

15 June
UPW’s London district Council advise post sorters and Cricklewood to “black” Grunwick mail.

21 June
Audrey Wise MP arrested on the picket–line.

23 June
Yorkshire and Scottish miners join the picket line. Arthur Scargill (President of Yorkshire Miners) arrested. PC Wilson hit by a bottle – much media exposure.

30 June
Scarman Court of Inquiry announced.

10 July
National Association for Freedom (NAFF) launches ‘Operation Pony Express’ to get Grunwick mail out of London and franked and sent by the Royal Mail.

11 July
National Day of Action against Grunwick. Nearly 20,000 join the demonstration (though police said 3706!). Company bus prevented from entering Chapter Road premises throughout the morning.

12 July
High Court rejects challenge by George Ward, Managing Director of Grunwick, to ACAS’ decisions.

29 July
“Black Friday” – Postal workers vote to call off their action against Grunwick mail. Strikers vote to call off planned August 8 mass picket. Lord Denning sitting in the Appeal Court overturns High Court decision of July 12 which had backed the ACAS report.

25 August
Scarman Report published; calls for union recognition and reinstatement whilst criticizing (or criticising) the mass picketing the mass picketing and the postal blacking.

31 August
Grunwick management rejects the Scarman Report.

6 September
TUC agrees to step up campaign against Grunwick.

28 September
Strike Committee organises lobby of TUC which is stepping back from support for the strike.

29 September
Strike Committee calls for new mass picket on 17 October

End September
APEX Executive Committee ambivalent about further mass picketing.

17 October
Mass picket – 5000 strong – organised by the Strike Committee.

7 November
Mass picket organised by the Strike Committee; 8000 strong; 113 arrested – Special Patrol Group of police involved; 243 pickets injured.

21 November
Four members of the Strike Committee Jayaben Desai, Vipin Magdani, Johnny Patel and Yasu Patel defy the Executive Council of APEX and stage hunger strike outside Congress House, HQ of the TUC. APEX suspend them without pay for 4 weeks.

14 December
House of Lords confirms 29 July decision against ACAS.

14 May
National conference in Wembley called by the strikers.

15 May
Ward, the Managing Director of Gruwnick, rejects the ACAS proposal for workforce ballot.

14 July
Strike Committee announces end of strike.

Adapted from
Joe Rogaly (1977) Grunwick Penguin Books, London

Jack Dromey and Graham Taylor (1978) Grunwick: the Workers’ Story Lawrence & Wishart, London

and from the personal testimonies of the strikers and archival records.