Socialist Worker

How women workers defied bullying bosses to cheer strikers in Barnsley

by Kate Burland
Issue No. 2349

During the 1984-85 Miners’ Strike I worked at Corah’s, a clothing factory in Barnsley, south Yorkshire.

I was 18 and a shop steward for the Hosiery and Knit Workers Union. The workforce was predominantly female. Pay was low and conditions pitiful.

The factory floor was vast and machinists were arranged in rows with a line manager keeping an eye on production at all times.   

Senior managers were in a glass office in the middle of the shop floor where they maintained a watchful eye over employees.

Many of the women were miners’ wives. The pittance of pay they took home was the only household income during the year-long miners’ strike.

There was little sense of a unified workforce. Interaction was discouraged through summons to the office for talking and the continual feed of loud music over the tannoy. 

At the end of the strike miners from Barrow Colliery were due to march back to work, led by Arthur Scargill.

Their route would take them right past Corah’s.

On the morning of the march there were numerous announcements over the tannoy. 

They warned that any worker who left their machine to cheer on the miners would be disciplined and would lose pay. 

No one reacted outwardly to these announcements and work continued as normal.

But when the time came for the miners’ march past, calmly but firmly, we stood up en masse and left the shop floor.

We stood on the wall outside cheering and waving as the miners’ walked past, then returned to our machines and resumed work.

No one was called to the office and no one lost pay. 

It was, and remains to this day, one of the most exhilarating and powerful moments of my life. For probably less than one hour on one day our collective power cowed the bullying management. 


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News
Tue 16 Apr 2013, 19:00 BST
Issue No. 2349
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