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The workers who refused to bow in GCHQ dispute

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: January 21, 2014

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The South West TUC has paid tribute to the workers sacked for defying the GCHQ 30 years ago this month.

On January 25, 1984, employees at GCHQ were presented with envelopes – printed in the US for secrecy – giving them an ultimatum: either resign from their trade union or find another job. The majority of workers felt they had no option than to resign their membership or find a job elsewhere, but 14 trade unionists resisted the ban and were sacked as a result.

Supported by the UK trade union movement, anxious to defend the right to join a trade union, they campaigned to have the ban over-turned. It took 13-and-a-quarter years, but they were eventually victorious when the newly-elected Labour government restored trade union rights.

One of them, Mike Grindley, who still lives in Cheltenham, said: "I was determined to stick with it and, eventually, we won – we secured for civil servants the right to belong to a free and independent union and take part in its affairs – but we couldn't have done it without support of everyone else.

"The whole trade union movement supported us, in the UK and across the world. I always knew we were going to win, eventually. I never dreamt it would take so long, but I knew we would win.

"Looking back, I don't have any regrets. It's one of the most worthwhile things I've done in my life, ranking alongside the great events in life: marriage and having children."

Nigel Costley, regional secretary of the South West TUC, was quick to pay tribute to the sacrifice made by Mike and his colleagues.

"They are rightly seen as heroes within our movement, refusing to give up their principles," he said.

The decision to ban trade unions at GCHQ fitted into a carefully choreographed attack on unions by the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher.

"There was such a shock, especially around Cheltenham, that proud civil servants undertaking sensitive defence work should be denied one of the basic rights that democratic countries hold dear," said Mr Costley.

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