Michael Cotter discusses the builders' strike [Text only]

'There was an unwritten code that when you got notice of the property which you were going to occupy...'

Stevenage Museum

There was an unwritten code that when you got notice of the property which you were going to occupy you said to the foreman, I’ve got this I am going to go and have a look how far ahead they’ve got that sort of thing and tell the wife you know.

He’d nod his head and say OK well everybody did it.  But the chap there Kevin Murphy who had come from the Festival of Britain, north countryman in his dealings with people and he’d been marked down, I don’t know how come but he’d been marked down as somebody who could be bit of a rogue.  Now Kevin, it was Saturday morning Kevin he’d got his letter that morning before he left home came down all excited and we finished at 12 o’clock.  At quarter past eleven he said he’d nip round to look at this new abode.  And it had never happened before the foreman nearby was waiting for him, called him in and sacked him.  Come Monday morning there was uproar we struck.

We struck about three things.  We struck about conditions of service, nothing complying with the rulebook, subcontractors, and the fact of victimisation.  Well victimisation came first and the others followed, you know, reinstatement of Kevin Murphy.  We marched to Aston House, the corporation employees wondered I think what had happened because they were up at Aston House at that time, a mansion about three miles up the road.  And looking through the window, you know, there was this crowd of fellows clad in tatters & rags if you like off site and covered in mud all very vociferous, very angry.

Anyway that got the trade union movement really on its feet because we did get rid of the sub contractors, we got brother Murphy reinstated and we got from that the negotiations of a bonus scheme which did improve, well the productivity for the employers, because they didn’t have to organise the site, we organised it for them, ran it for them up to a point and it improved our wages.  That came I suppose about 1953-54 that happened.

This page was added on 16/04/2018.

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