Some 250 defiant union members and supporters demonstrated in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, last Saturday in support of victimised local journalist Phil Turner.
Council workers, teachers and lecturers marched alongside anti-racist, LGBT and anti-war activists. They condemned Phil’s employer, the Rotherham Advertiser, for deciding to “select” him for redundancy.
The array of 16 union and campaign banners on the protest showed the widespread solidarity for Phil. He has been a campaigning reporter in the town for three decades.
Phil’s NUJ union officer Chris Morley told the rally the “selection” was a sham.
He said that new owner Nick Alexander was out to rid the paper of its Father of the Chapel (shop steward).
Phil has worked tirelessly to sustain union organisation there for almost 30 years. He has led two strikes against attempts to derecognise the NUJ, and fought off an earlier attempt to victimise him.
Rotherham MP Sarah Champion and Linda McAvan, MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber, have written to Alexander calling for Phil’s reinstatement.
And workers at the newspaper were set to strike on Thursday of this week.
Trade unionists and campaigners spoke in support of Phil, including Sheffield Heeley MP Louise Haigh.
Many made the point that trade unions are now in the front line of the Tories’ attacks following Labour’s shock defeat in the general election. That’s why reps such as Phil and Candy Udwin at the National Gallery (see right) are being victimised.
Some told of causes Phil had championed, such as campaigning to stop the fascist BNP and EDL exploiting the anger over widespread child abuse. Others spoke of his work supporting the Great Miners’ Strike of 1984-85.
Fred Sprague of Rotherham NUT spoke of Phil’s solidarity whenever workers took industrial action.
“It’s payback time,” he said. “It’s now us that need to deliver solidarity to Phil.”
He read out a letter of support from NUT general secretary Christine Blower and deputy general secretary Kevin Courtney.
Phil thanked everyone for their support. “It’s clear we need to keep up the action,” he said.
“It’s great that my members are taking one-day strike action this Thursday.
“Please get down to the picket line and show your solidarity, organise as many messages of support as you can, and take collections to sustain the campaign.”
Send messages of support and solidarity to Phil at firstname.lastname@example.org