Thursday 4 February 2010

Strike at UGB Charlton 1960

Time was, thirty years ago, when you couldn't move for articles about labour unrest - but times change, so it was a real change to see an article about a strike. This one was in Charlton (now - who remembered that the biggest glass works in Europe was in Charlton in the 1960s????). The article is in the current edition of Labour Heritage - and the following is a brief precis of it.

The article, by Scott Reeve, describes how a Manager asked to meet members of the workforce. When they did not attend an arranged meeting the Shop Steward, Wally Morton, was sacked. By lunch time all work at the factory had stopped and Les Doust, AEU Steward and Communist was chairing the strike committee. At a mass meeting it was resolved to continue the strike until Wally had his job back. Next the boiler workers struck - meaning that the glass making furnaces would go out, and oil supplies to the site were blacked. Within another two days Co-op workers (whose used UG milk bottles) had blacked the site, as had Thames Lightermen - and workers at next door factory, Harveys, were organising collections. Meeting were taking place at the Ministry of Labour.
The strike was front page news on both Kentish Independent and the Mercury - although their stories of numbers on strike differed by 200! The Daily Worker covered the strike on a daily basis. Brian Behan (brother of playwright Brendan) came to the picket line, on behalf of the Socialist Labour League and covered it for their newsheet.
Inevitably a deal was negotiated by AEU District Officials - which reinstated Wally Morton whole allowing management to examine his fitness for his role as shop steward. After some argument a vote to end the strike was narrowly carried. Socialist Labour League described it as a 'shoddy little deal'.

'For more information about Labour Heritage and articles from previous editions of the bulletin, visit You can buy a copy of the latest bulletin at £2 (incl. postage) or join Labour Heritage (£10 pa or £4 concessions) by contacting: John Grigg: 020 8743 4189,

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