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banner Tuesday, 1 January, 2002, 10:39 GMT
Transcripts: Jimmy Reid - The Campaign Leader
Jimmy Reid
Reid became the voice of the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders
Jimmy Reid brought the British Government's attention to the Scottish shipbuilding industry by organising a work-in of the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders in 1971.

The communist shop-steward helped to reverse the decision of the British Government to close the ship yards. Edward Heath took a U-turn and announced a 35 million injection of cash into the yards at Govan, Scotstoun and Linthouse.

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

In a revealing interview to the BBC programme UK Confidential, Reid explains how he gained support for his cause from celebrities such as John Lennon and how he went about organising the campaign.


Why did you go for the work-in in 1971?

Workers at the Clyde ship yard
8,500 jobs in the yard were at stake with the closure of UCS
Because it was the only logical effective form of opposition to closure. Strike action was unthinkable, we would have left the factory, the yards and that would have delighted the government because they would have put padlocks on the gates. So that was out.

We did consider a second strike but I reckon it was far too negative that, and we had an enormous order book, plenty of work and the logical thing was, why don't we work-in, refuse to accept redundancy and work.


It seems to me talking to former government ministers from that time, you really surprised the government with what you did. Did you really expect to surprise them as much as you did?

Yes I've no doubt that the form of the struggle that we had adopted took everything, everyone aback, and not only that but the way we elucidated, we explained our case. For example when asked; "what if the police came in, what are you going to do?" We won't resist, we are not violent, they will need to come and drag us out. We would only resist in that respect.

You're talking about eight thousand workers, overwhelmingly family men with kids.

This was an image that I think the chief constables told the government that they couldn't guarantee that their members, that is the policemen, would carry that out, because it would alienate the whole community.


Why did you not buy the government's argument that - and I'm just putting their argument, they said, this is not commercially viable?

Their case was untrue. The facts didn't tally.

We had agreements we had reached about the interchangeability of certain work grades and all the rest of it that were quite significantly ahead of anything else in British shipbuilding, and so we had these things going.

Now the truth of the matter is, as the Ridley report clearly shows, this was Nicholas Ridley in the opposition. He had produced this report, secret, confidential, and it suggested a number in the shadow Cabinet including Heath and Margaret Thatcher who was a minister at the time, saying, we should butcher the Upper Clyde and sell its assets cheaply to those in the Lower Clyde.

The significant difference was that the Upper Clyde was publicly owned, and the Lower Clyde was privately owned.

And Ridley as we all now know, and everyone knows but we knew it at the time, was a Thatcherite before the term was coined. And that's why when you look back to these times, we had been sacrificed at the altar of a political ideology. It was a political ideology of Thatcherism before Margaret Thatcher embraced it.

Now you received support from across the world and I believe that one of the people you received support from was somebody you thought was a revolutionary. Can you tell me that story?

Yes we had a press conference. So you get this crowded press room and they're answering the questions and some of the stewards that were guarding the gate as it were, I don't mean guarding in any sense except making sure what was going on and what was going out was acceptable.

John Lennon supported the workers
John Lennon supported the workers
So they come in and they said: "Hey Jimmy you've got a big wagon wheel out there of roses for you". I'd never received flowers from anybody, not the done thing in Clydeside for a man to get flowers and so I said: "Who's it from?" He says: "I don't know but there's a cheque here," and he looked and all he could see was Lennon, L-e-n-n-o-n. He said: "Lennon, some guy called Lennon".

One of the old communist shop stewards from Dumbarton, he says, "it cannae be Lenin, he's dead".


That's amazing, having pop stars supporting your campaign.

Well not only pop stars. It was people in the entertainment industry in general.

I think Jack Bruce came out of retirement to give a concert for us in London and Eric Clapton.

So stars together, put on a show for us in Glasgow, it was like a royal command performance, all coming and queuing.

But that's less important than the weekly contributions and children having little jumble sales at street corners and churches.

Believe it or not we actually got regular contributions from a Conservative party constituency association that thought we were right and the government was wrong and the money poured in, and then from abroad, all over Europe.

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