Report on the BUIRA History of Industrial Relations Study Group, 2012/13


Three events were organised by the BUIRA History of IR Study Group for the year 2012/13. Attendance was excellent in all cases, and all speakers provoked lively discussion.


The first was a seminar entitled The Rise and Fall of British Shipbuilding from the 1870s

held on Wednesday 7 November 2012 at the University of Westminster from 4.30 to 7.00pm.


In 2011, the coalition government announced the abolition of the British Shipbuilding Corporation, thereby bringing shipbuilding to its formal end in the UK. Our seminar, which was attended by 20 participants, explored the history of industrial relations in shipbuilding in the UK since its heyday in the 1870s to its eventual demise.


Alastair Reid (Fellow and Director of Studies at Girton College, Cambridge) spoke on The Resilience of the Skilled Crafts in British Shipbuilding, 1870-1950. He was followed by Stephen Mustchin (Lecturer in Employment Studies at Manchester Business School, University of Manchester) on The Cammell Laird Strike and Occupation of 1984 in Context: the Decline of Shipbuilding and Responses to Closure and Redundancy.



Our second seminar, attended by 30 participants, was entitled 1913 – The Great Unrest, and was held on Tuesday, 19 February 2013 at the University of Westminster, again from 4.30 to 7.30pm.


Michael Gold gave a brief overview of the year based on his own family records, following which Ralph Darlington (Professor Employment Relations, University of Salford) spoke on Revolutionary Syndicalism: Strikes, Leadership and Influence and Mary Davis (Professor of Labour History, London Met University) on Hidden Histories: Women during the Great Unrest. Keith Ewing (Professor of Law, King’s College London) concluded with a paper on The Trade Union Act 1913: One Hundred Years On.



Our third event, which was jointly sponsored by BUIRA, Britain at Work and the Oral History Society, was an Oral Labour History Day held at the Bishopsgate Institute on Saturday 11 May, from 10.30 to 5.30pm. Almost 60 people attended. Our main theme was migrant workers, in particular Irish and Black workers and those involved in the NHS. The day included round table introductions on the projects in which participants were involved and their interest in oral labour history.


Following an introduction by Stefan Dickers, Bishopsgate Institute, the opening presentation was given by Anitha Sundari (University of Lincoln) and Ruth Pearce (University of Leeds) on Asian Women’s Experiences in the Grunwick Dispute: Recording and Disseminating Oral History, which was accompanied by an exhibition. Michael Gold chaired the round table and, after lunch, Linda Clarke, Christine Wall (both University of Westminster) and Sara Goek (University of Cork) spoke on Irish Migrant Workers, followed by Wilf Sullivan (TUC) and Glenroy Watson (RMT) on Black Workers in London. Joanna Bornat (Oral History Society) led the final session on Creating the NHS, in which she covered the role of migrant workers. Conclusions for the day were rounded off by a showing of Philip Donnellan’s film, The Irishmen (1965).


Linda Clarke/ Michael Gold


May 2013