Glasgow & West Scotland

Event marks 40 years since UCS shipbuilders work-in

Shipbuilders taking part in protest march in Glasgow in 1971
Image caption The shipbuilders' work-in came in response to the threat of mass redundancies

A gala concert has been held to mark the 40th anniversary of the famous work-in at the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders (UCS) in Glasgow.

Former Labour MP Tony Benn was the guest of honour at the event held at the Mitchell Theatre.

Scottish musicians, some of whom played in fund-raising concerts at the time, performed.

The work-in at UCS, during 1971 and 1972, thwarted the Tory government's attempts to close the yards.

The Conservatives had been determined not to prop-up what they termed "lame duck" industries and threatened to remove funding from UCS, which was a consortium of shipyards at Govan, Scotstoun and Linthouse.

Jimmy Reid, who organised the protest along with fellow shop-stewards Jimmy Airlie and Sammy Barr, died last year.

Jimmy Cloughley, a member of the UCS co-ordinating committee, said: "The stewards who took part in the 'work-in' felt that, following the deaths of two of the main leaders, Jimmy Airlie and Jimmy Reid, it was important to mark the 40th anniversary positively.

"It is important when working people face increasing attacks on their jobs and conditions, to remember a successful struggle against a Tory government bent on on butchering them.

"The community and country supported us. We righted a wrong, and it must never be forgotten."

Yards 'viable'

Artists including Pat Kane, Jimmie McGregor, Rab Noakes and Kevin McDermott took part in the concert.

Speaking to BBC Scotland ahead of the event, Mr Benn, who was the Labour Minister who created the UCS consortium in 1968 and a prominent supporter of the "work-in" when in opposition, said: "The UCS was a brilliant operation. Instead of taking strike action they decided to take over the yards and were very, very disciplined.

"I came and supported them. We were in opposition at the time and (Labour leader) Harold Wilson was a bit nervous but he went up to Glasgow and was totally convinced by what was being done.

"In the end it succeeded so it was a very unique form of industrial action."

The work-in came in response to then Tory government removing funding from the UCS yards and planning to close and sell them off.

The decision meant at least 6,000 of the 8,500 shipyard workers employed by the yards would have to be made redundant.

The work-in saw workers manage and operate the UCS shipyards until the government changed its policy.

It was intended to prove that the yards were viable, and the organiser insisted on tight discipline to ensure workers projected the best possible image.

In a famous speech to workers, broadcast across the UK and beyond, Jimmy Reid said: "We are not going to strike. We are not even having a sit-in strike.

"Nobody and nothing will come in and nothing will go out without our permission. And there will be no hooliganism, there will be no vandalism, there will be no bevvying because the world is watching us."

The well-orchestrated campaign attracted widespread public support, with a series of fundraising events being held for the workers and celebrities including John Lennon giving their backing.

The UK government, led by Ted Heath, finally relented in February 1972 and announced a £35m injection of cash into the yards.

Within three years, shipbuilding on the Upper Clyde had received about £101m of public grants and credits, with £20m going to the UCS.

In addition to the concert, an exhibition about the work-in is being held at the Mitchell Library.

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