Trade Unions


I think Imperial typewriters Strike actually signifies kind of industrial turmoil taking place in the Midlands and some other cities, which is basically that in factories where most of the South Asians were employed you have a two-tier system, Firstly that most of the workers used to do the night shift, ... Apart from that they were paid less than white workers, so there was the different [position] between the salaries as well, wages. I think third issue for us which led for many people from the communities getting involved in the struggle is that unions were mainly led by white workers who saw us as a threat, or Asian workers as a threat in terms of, you know, if they get more then the disparity between the wages will disappear, then what is the point, yeah? And in many of those struggles and disputes, if you look through it, trade union basically opposed the strikes. So there was no option but for us to mobilise the communities to support the strikers, and Imperial Typewriters was one of the best examples of, what I call community action – cum industrial action because we used to raise huge amount of funds, people used to come and give us food for strikers, and so on and so forth.



The main [campaign] really, I suppose was the Aire Valley Yarns when, basically textile workers were not, you know, given their particular rights. I can’t remember much of the campaign at the moment but, we did help them in their campaign and to sort get support basically from the Trades Council So we ended up organising pickets in Aire Valley Yarns which was basically, it wasn’t actually Bradford based as it were, but it was on the periphery of Bradford, and the workers were largely Asian and they were being, sort of, not given the same rights as other white staff in essence, so that campaign, you know, lasted quite a while. They didn’t win anything, at the end of the day, the trades unions didn’t support them.



When the miners dispute  happened we were very, very involved, you know, we used to go along to Orgreave to the miner’s picket lines. We used to knock on the windows, get our members out in the morning, and get in the minibuses and take them every single day down to the miner’s picket line and similar with the Irish issues and all that, so it was very much about, you know, we were learning about other people’s oppression, you know, class,  race and imperialism all those things came together for us.



I remember on one occasion this disgruntled young lad that I had woken up at six o’clock in the morning, when we arrived there, one of the miners, not all of them, but one of the miners turned round and said, ‘what the hell are these ‘Pakis’ doing here?’ So this young lad turned round to me and said, ‘thank you very much, right, for waking me up at six in the morning only to get racist abuse’. To which my response was, ‘brother you’ve got to recognise that, you know, we can see the bars and some of them can’t’. But I think the miners for us, you know, some of the mining communities that we went and stayed with, the way that we were treated, the humility, the humbleness of the miners, the hatred that we had for the police and the siege that we experienced in our communities, and the way we were being treated by the police, I saw that echoed by the mining families, and the anger, the passion you know, and the way they were seeking to organise.