Silk Mill March, Rally and People’s Festival 2016 – Remembering the “lock out”

In 1833 the employees of the Silk Mill were famously united in opposition to the forced pay-cuts to the workers of the Mill. The industrial unrest, which was one of the earliest examples of co-ordinated action, gave rise to the Grand National Trades Union in February 1834, and the subsequent Trade Union movement. The workers were locked out for 8 months and were subjected to hardship and oppression.

Although the Trade Unions have been central in fighting for workers rights throughout all British industry over the last 180 years, the last 30 years has seen a general dilution of those powers and, unfortunately,  they are becoming progressively more impotent. The success of Sports Direct, and the poor working conditions in which, predominantly, EU migrants have to work, highlights that Unions are still an essential part of combatting employers who remain singularly focussed on financial business success to the exclusion of the rights of the employees. Cheryl Pidgeon  of UNITE explained some of the findings from their work in Sports Direct’s Shirebrook plant , and how they are supporting the workers – including providing valuable English lessons. Some of the practices that she found sounded like they were from a modern-day Dickensian work-house.

The march started in the Market Place and weaved through the town centre to the Cathedral Green. There were speeches from ASLEF’s Tosh McDonald, Lyndsey German of Stop the War Coalition, and Ian Lavery MP.

Joginder Bains of the Indian Workers Association laid the chaplet at the gates of the Silk Mill.

A one-minute silence was held in honour of Jo Cox.

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