Sunday, 8 September 2013

Looking back to 1913 ... and forward

My column in last week’s Cornish Guardian focussed on the 1913 Clay Strike and the events organised to mark the centenary. It was as follows:

I would like to congratulate everyone who has been involved with the commemoration of the china clay strike of 1913, when local workers demanded better pay and the right to union representation.

And I would certainly recommend the booklet on the strike published by the South West TUC in partnership with Wheal Martyn, the China Clay History Society, the Unite union and Imerys.

It is right that, 100 years on, we remember the fortitude and bravery of the communities of the China Clay Area, and men and women such as Charles Vincent, Samuel Behenna and Matt Giles of the strike committee, the out-spoken Methodist Minister Rev. Harry Booth-Coventry and the union organiser Julia Varley.

Without such men and women from communities across the whole of Britain, pressure would never have been exerted on those in power to improve the working and social conditions of the ordinary people of this country.

And it is due to such men and women that, over the last ten decades, significant progress was made with improvements in working conditions, suffrage and public services, especially with the creation of the National Health Service.

I was especially pleased that the events of this year did not just focus on the historic significance of 1913, but also addressed some of the social and economic issues facing people today, and included a debate at Bugle about low pay entitled: “Does Cornwall need a pay rise now?”

It is certainly my view that recent political developments are reversing so much of the good work of the past.

The Coalition is privatising our public services at an alarming rate; there is a frightening rise in the cost of living for ordinary people, many of whom are struggling to get by on less than a living wage; and many large companies are changing working conditions, forcing many workers into part-time work and zero-hour contracts, undermining employment rights and job security for thousands.

It is time that we fought back. And in 2013, we need to see so much more of the spirit that was about in 1913.

1 comment: said...

The workers of Clay Country were a breed apart and it must have taken a lot to drive them to take the heroic action they did.

The areas finest period was under the leadership of Sir Alan Dalton who led a loyal highly motivated loyal workforce that brought such prosperity to the Hensbarrow Downs behind St Austell for many years.

I first met Sir Alan when he presented me with a school prize and in later years when he lived in retirement at Penelewey I got to know him quite well, he really was an incredible man an example and inspiration to all he met.

Like so many other good firms ECLP eventually got infiltrated by the greedy corporate short termists intent on maximising profit by robbing St Austell of it's future.

The rot really set in when like rats leaving a sinking ship the financial rapists moved the company headquarters from St Austell to Reading after which it was downhill all the way.