Limpiadores (Cleaners) a documentary about a group of Latin American low paid workers at some of London’s universities. Cleaning has always been low paid work and made much worst over the years as even big public service employers such as universities or the NHS are either cutting the wages of the workers or privatising the service. It is also been an industry that employs some of the most vulnerable people, including women and immigrants. In this film we watch the story of Latin American people who are cleaners challenging the management of some of the most prestigious academic universities over their policies of cutting pay and conditions and winning.
The film was made by Fernando Gonzalez Mitjans and is being shown on Thursday 19 November 5-7pm Ellen Wilkinson Building A5.5, University of Manchester. It’s a shame that the film is not being shown at a more central and accessible location. Not sure if the cleaners at the M.Uni have been invited?? See trailer at
Book a place at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find out more about a different type of trade union see
Winter – the latest Shakespearian offering from 3MT. Shakespeare with a Mancunian twist: a new adaptation of The Winter’s Tale by John Topliff and directed by Gina T. Frost. They say; Set in the dark austerity of Post-War Mancia, and the brave new world of the 1960’s ‘Winter’ traces the journey of two young friends through war and peace, love and jealousy, to the final startling conclusion. It is on 17-21 November, for further details see
Some local history; Inland Port- the Films of the Manchester Ship Canal. Before the replacement of real industry by the likes of Media City, the Lowry and the IWM there was a thriving port which was a crucial part of the northwest economy, employing thousands of people. Find out more at this screening by the North West Film Archive. The Ship Canal Company even made their own promotional films. Part of Explore Archives week at Manchester Central Library, it is free and you do not need to book. Further info see
to Arthur Riordan’s 1992 take on Ireland in 2016. I bought the cassette (!)”Emergency Session” in Ireland in the 90s and could not stop playing it. For second generation Irish on this side of the Irish Sea it summed up many of the reasons why we disliked the Irish State. Today Ireland has changed considerably but you still cannot get an abortion there and thousands of young people are still forced to leave the country to find work. Enjoy The Emergency Session at
Taxi Tehran What do you do if the country you live in bans you from doing your job? Well you get another one. In this new film banned Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi takes up taxiing to explore life in modern day Iran. Its not just conversations between Jafar and his customers but between customers that are most revealing. A young man gets in, followed by a woman. He is irate about the crime in the city and prescribes public hangings, she resists and challenges the purpose of capital punishment. We don’t get to know the real occupation of the young man, maybe he is a policeman? But the woman is a teacher who probably knows more about the desperation of young people and their families. Another passenger is a woman carrying roses, and although she isn’t named she is human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, on her way to prison to visit a hunger striker. It is easy from the outside to feel depressed about human rights in countries such as Iran but its when you watch films like this that you shouldn’t be, after all its down to Iranians themselves, such as Jafar and Nasrin, to change their country and we should admire their courage in demanding their rights to live in a democratic society.
Joe Hill Ain’t Dead (1879-1915) on 21 November in Liverpool. He was a songwriter and union activist, framed and then executed by the state of Utah. His creative way of campaigning and organising has relevance today for those fighting for workers’ rights. His work lives on in the dynamic International Workers of the World who have been active in organising in some of the most difficult parts of the labour force; cleaning and catering. Learn more about Joe in John Fay’s play “The Joe Hill Dream” which will be performed by the Dingle Community and Vauxy Theatre. Listen to women activists from “Northern ReSisters; conversations with Radical Women” as they inspire people to get active in trade unions, anti-cuts and community actions. Further details see
Bury the Chains The British Struggle to Abolish Slavery by Adam Hochschild. Another brilliantly written and accessible history of the campaign against the slave trade. A reminder for all of us working hard to win campaigns that a small group of committed people can make a difference. This week Shaker Aamer was released from Guantanamo Bay after 14 years without justice and reading this book reminded me of how slavery, at all different levels, still exists even in the so called western democracies. Adam reminds us that the campaign against the slave trade was fought at a time when most people were prisoners, their bondage was part of a global economy based on forced labour. Opposing this trade would have been seen as akin to treason in the 1700s but by the end of the 1833 it was abolished. This is the story of those people who took up that challenge.
Out about motorways. Love them or hate them we all use them and the recent collapse of part of the Mancunian Way shows how crucial they are to getting around the city. The Manchester Modernist Society and Proper Magazine are hosting a night of films to celebrate the history of motorways in the northwest; On the Road on November 26 at the Castlefield Gallery in Manchester. Films made by organisations as diverse as Ribble Buses, The Cement and Concrete Association and the building firm Laing. I did not make up these names! Further details see
In 2015 the number of people on zero hour contracts make up 2.4% of the UK workforce of 31 million people. (Office of National Statistics). And where are those contracts? Well in the work places you might expect such as hospitality and leisure but also increasingly in health, the care industry and universities all of whom increasingly rely on zero hour workers.
Workers on zero hour contracts earn less per hour than staff in similar roles and are denied benefits such as sick pay. They have no security at work and are difficult to organise into trade unions to fight for real not zero hour contracts.
How did we get to this situation in Britain? The Liverpool Dockers Lockout of 1995-1998 signalled a major shift backwards in the way some people worked. As Ken Loach says in the foreword to this book; “What was at stake was the nature of work itself”. He believes that the attack on organised labour started with the election of the Tories in 1979 who brought in anti-trade union laws whilst at the same time closing down factories and industries and throwing millions of people on the dole. The rest as they say is history,
But the Liverpool Dockers were not prepared to accept the clock being turned back to a time when men were reduced to being day labourers with no permanent contract, dependant on being “chosen to work” on a daily basis.
Dockers is the photographic story of a historic fight of a group of workers and their defence of their jobs and way of life. It began with the employers picking off smaller ports and employing non-union casual labour. But when it came to Liverpool the dockers refused to accept these new working conditions and were locked out and agency workers were brought in to do their jobs.
Dave Sinclair started recording the lockout on Wednesday 27 September 1995. The dispute had started two days earlier when a small dock supply company, Torside Limited, had dismissed its entire workforce of eighty young dockers. Most of these young dockers had fathers working for the Port Authority, the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company. The next day the young dockers picketed the gates of the Seaforth Docks and the dockers refused to cross the picket line and all 500 dockers were sacked. It was not a strike, it was a lockout.
Dockers is a fascinating record of a dispute that has been largely forgotten by the labour movement: a dispute that has had major consequences for the trade union movement in terms of increasing insecurity of work, of low wages and the increased casualisation of work throughout the labour force.
I went on several of the demos in Liverpool, heard the emotional appeals of the women and their Women on the Waterfront campaign and sadly watched as their union, Unite, and the Labour Party refused to support them. But these photographs also show the incredible support that the dockers had from all parts of the community in this country, well beyond the Liverpool docks. It is an important reminder of the solidarity shown by groups as diverse as Reclaim the Streets, Turkish/Kurdish supporters from London, and Asian women from the Hillingdon Hospital dispute.
Dockers is a reminder of how important it is for the people involved in making working class history to record their own stories. Luckily the Liverpool dockers and their families had Dave Sinclair to do it for them. But looking at the photographs made me want to know what were the individual stories behind the organisation of the strike, the personal stories behind the heroic and heartfelt images of the dispute over the years 95-98. Britain in 2015 is not Liverpool in 1995 but I think we can all learn a great deal from a group of workers and their community who stood up and defended their right, not just to a job, but to living a decent and dignified life.
Buy it from see
Watch Ken Loach’s documentary about the Lockout The Flickering Flame see
Watch Jimmy McGovern’s drama about the Lockout Dockers see
Listen to Chumbawamba’s song about the dispute; One by One
The Black Panthers Vanguard of the Revolution (Home). This is the story of how thousands of black working class women and men were not prepared to accept being treated as second class citizens in the USA of the 1960s; they were Black and they were Proud. Their anger led to the creation of a new organisation; the Black Panthers. They were political – they saw the links between capitalism and racism – and they took up guns to protect their community. But they also looked after the poor in their community, setting up breakfast clubs for children, health clinics for black people and producing their own newspaper as part of their campaign for justice. Over the years I have seen many documentaries about the Panthers and this is one of the few that interviews the women who made up a significant part of the organisation, including women such as Kathleen Cleaver, partner of the better known Eldridge. The USA in the 60s, looking back, seemed a totally mad society run by lunatics such as Edgar Hoover of the FBI and President Richard Nixon. The anger of the young black people seems totally understandable, an anger that had a political strategy as well as a military one. The 60s generation was an angry one but one that still seemed to believe in a better future. Today it seems that there is a growing anger in this country but one that does not have any political focus beyond joining (sorry Jeremy Corbyn) the discredited political parties. For all the problems inherent with the Black Panthers but they did for a time represent the hopes and dreams of many black people across the age range and they showed how it is working class people deciding their own agenda that will really deliver justice and equality. In the Uk you can support this group who campaign for justice for people who have died in police custody see
Manchester deserves better mental health-a national scandal. Join trade unionists and local campaigners on Saturday 7 November 2-5pm at the Friends Meeting House, Manchester. They say; Our branch of UNISON, Manchester Community & Mental Health, is extremely concerned about the state of mental health services in Manchester. Services and staff are near breaking point in Manchester – which is a local scandal. It’s a national scandal too, that mental health services generally are still so poorly resourced. Further details see
about Malcolm Hulke. He wrote episodes of The Avengers and Doctor Who in the 60s and 70s and invented the Silurians, but for me, he was much more interesting because he was also a member of the Communist Party and expressed his progressive ideas (including women’s equality) about society through his writing. Radical historian Michael Herbert will be talking about him on 11 November, 2pm, at the WCML. Read his pamphlet telling the real story of Malcolm’s life see.
to an exhibition about Margaret Ashton ( 1856 – 1937); the first women councillor for Manchester City Council, a suffragist and a campaigner for social reform. She came from Hyde, Tameside a meber of a wealthy mill owning family. Might sound tame or even conservative in today’s politics but she was one of the brave people who opposed the First World War from a pacifist perspective for which she was attacked by Manchester City Council which saw her politics as akin to treason. Find out more about this pioneering woman at Manchester Central Library from 4 Nov – 11 December.