The Campaign fights for justice for the wrongful prosecution of 24 building workers following their strike in 1972.
“We were not guilty of any crime... Any fair-minded person looking at the evidence would conclude there has been a miscarriage of justice.” Terry Renshaw
The Shrewsbury 24 were not guilty of conspiracy. They were the victims of one
Shrewsbury 24 activists hail MPs' Vote for full facts of 1972 Plot.
Shewsbury 24 justice campaigners hailed a big leap forward in their quest to expose a vicious Establishment conspiracy against innocent trade unionists. MPs voted by 120 to three to demand the lifting of the government ban on publication of papers held on spurious grounds of "national security" following a historic Commons debate 40 years after three Shrewsbury pickets were jailed and 21 others tried on trumped-up conspiracy charges. read full article here....
HuntleyFilmArchives footage from the 1972 strike and rallies in suppport of the Shrewsbury pickets https://youtu.be/wI_QmOnYbFs
More than the requisite 100,000 signatures were secured for a parliamentary debate on the petition’s central demand for the disclosure of all state documents relating to the arrest, trials and convictions of 24 north Wales building workers in 1973.
House of Commons debate on the Shrewsbury 24, 23 January 2014 - Motion, tabled by Dave Anderson MP:
“That this House is seriously concerned at the decision of the Government to refuse to release papers related to the building dispute in 1972 and subsequent prosecutions of the workers known as the Shrewsbury 24 and calls on it to reverse this position as a matter of urgency.”
From Ricky Tomlinson:
You know me as an actor and performer today but as a young man I was a plasterer working in the building industry and a member of the T&GWU. We were low paid and had some of the worst working conditions of any workers in Britain in the 1970’s. Like any good trade unionists we decided we would take action to change this. We had a national strike in summer 1972. We picketed sites that were not well organised and where union members needed our support. Five months after the strike ended 24 of us were arrested out of the blue and six of us were sent to prison after lengthy trails at Shrewsbury Crown Court.
I was sent to jail for 2 years for carrying out trade union activities. Today you do not hear of trade unionists in Britain being sent to prison but that’s what happened to me and 5 of my colleagues. Others got suspended prison sentences.
We believe that they show that there was government interference and manipulation in bringing the prosecutions. The Coalition Government today continues to refuse to release these documents on grounds of “national security”. There’s a lot more information on the Campaign’s website:www.shrewsbury24campaign.org.uk
Heroes of trade unions in the construction industry - one of the worst miscarriages of justice in the 20th Century
Who were the Shrewsbury 24? Read Manchester TUC's excellent article
for further info, we recommend;
The Shrewsbury Three: strikes, pickets and "conspiracy" by Jim Arnison. This is the story of 3 building workers who were wrongly imprisoned and their fight for justice. The author was a journalist for the Morning Star.84pp. £3 + p&p fromhttp://www.
Des Warren, "The Key to My Cell", (1982), republished 2007 £10 from http://www.
Ricky Tomlinson, "Ricky", Time Warner Paperbacks (2003)
United we Stand is a new Townsend Productions play about the injustice served on 24 building workers in 1973.
Description of the play:
In the 1960s and 70s the UK’s building companies were making millions re-building the country, but building workers faced the most dangerous working conditions and poorest wages of any trade. In the summer of '72, for twelve weeks, 300,000 building workers launched their industry's first national all-out strike to end cash "lump" wages and seek better pay by using the controversial tactic of 'Flying Pickets'. The partial success of the strike, and the methods used, enraged the construction industry and government, and culminated in the arrest of 24 builders in North Wales who were charged with offences including conspiracy to intimidate and affray. The “24” were prosecuted at Shrewsbury Crown Court in 1973 and three were jailed, including building workers Des Warren and Ricky Tomlinson.
Sharp and humorous, United We Stand tells the story behind the compelling dispute and dispels the myth, put about at the time, that the pickets were a criminally violent rather than ordinary working men seeking a better life for themselves and their fellow workers.
Combining Townsend Productions' trademark cast of two playing multiple roles, grand theatrical style and wit with popular and political songs about the strike, arranged by renowned folk musician John Kirkpatrick and Ricky Tomlinson's poems from his time in prison, the production aims to bring the full story of the compelling dispute to life in a powerful and thought-provoking new play.
The events surrounding the strike are still making headlines to this day, and 42 years on, the high-profile Shrewsbury 24 Campaign, led by picket turned actor Ricky Tomlinson is still seeking to overturn the unjust prosecution of the 24 building workers.
Ricky Tomlinson said about the play, “I am delighted The Townsend Theatre Company are presenting a play about the 1972 building workers strike, and the plight of the Shrewsbury 24 building worker pickets. It is 41 years since I together with Des Warren and John McKinsie Jones were charged with conspiracy and jailed.
We were charged with conspiracy, but we believe the real conspiracy was between the government, the building contractors and the judiciary. They wanted the prison sentences to act as a deterrent, to prevent workers from taking strike action.
“Every worker should know what happened to us so as to ensure it does not happen again.”
Townsend Productions - a company making a name for delivering vivid, politically committed theatre - The Observer
Whatever your politics, this is a production worth seeing - The Observer
Vivid Writing - The Observer
PRESS COVERAGE AND REVIEWS
- BBC: Ricky Tomlinson battles to overturn 1970s prison term
- BBC: United We Stand explores the case of the Shrewsbury 24
- BBC Radio 4: Front Row; Ricky Tomlinson and playwright Neil Gore talk about United We Stand
★★★★★ Morning Star
★★★★ Liverpool Echo
United We Stand is up front and personal, in yer face - British Theatre Guide
United We Stand is the kind of cake that really doesn’t need any icing - British Theatre Guide
Striking Stuff- Click, Liverpool
The play was truthful, and hilarious and entertaining from the start - Nerve Magasine
Passionately delivered – Liverpool Echo
Highly recommended – Morning Star
Here is new Video trailer - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t-YndfvRfsI
Thursday 21st September 2017 - Shrewsbury 24 campaign speaker reporting on trhe long awaited outcome of the Criminal Case Reveview Commission.
organised by Wolverhampton TUC
Shrewsbury activists call for release of secret papers - 22 January 2013
To visit the official Shrewsbury24 campaign website click here.....
Early Day Motion 170 Date tabled: 12.06.2012
That this House notes the application to the Criminal Cases Review Commission by Ricky Tomlinson and other convicted building workers known as the Shrewsbury 24 who were prosecuted in 1973 following the national building workers strike in 1972; further notes the support for the Shrewsbury 24 Campaign from building workers' unions the Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians and Unite and many other trades unions; further notes that on the 40th anniversary of the dispute the Government continues, on grounds of national security, to withhold a number of papers relating to the strike and the prosecutions from being deposited at the National Archives under section 23 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000; and calls on the Government to release forthwith all such papers for public scrutiny.
To: MPs because if 100,000 signatures are gathered Parliment has to address the issue.
The petition is really important and could use our help. Click here to find out more and sign:
The handing in of the submission to the CCRC was memorable. It was the first time in 40 years that the convictions have been challenged through the criminal justice system. History in the making, it was a day to remember.
The campaign will continue to support the pickets by ongoing research and to organise events to raise awareness of the issue and to raise funds to cover costs of the legal team at Bindmans solicitors. - Eileen Turnbull, Shrewsbury 24 campaign
Fund-raising to pay legal costs is necessary.
It is possible that new evidence will persuade the CCRC to obtain disclosure of documents from government concerning the activity of the security services and the Cabinet.
Watch the Campaign's video by clicking here
2nd annual march & rally- Bob Crow (RMT Gen.Sec.) called for support for John McDonnell's EDM to repeal the anti-trade union laws.
Message from Shropshire & Telford Trades Council
Support the Annual Shrewsbury 24 March and Rally
In 21st century Britain an unelected judge deems as illegal a democratic decision of workers to take strike action. Lord Justice McCombe’s recent high court ruling against BA cabin crew shows that yet again the law can be relied on to back the rich and the powerful. The outrageous decision to outlaw strikes at British Airways is directed against everyone who wants to see resistance to the ConDem Coalition’s agenda of savage cuts.
The bosses and the government are on the offensive against workers and the entire union movement has to fight back. Shropshire and Telford Trades Council invite trade unionists and supporters to joins us for a March and Rally demanding justice for the Shrewsbury pickets, criminalised and jailed following the 1972 building workers strike, and forging solidarity with workers fighting back now in the face of draconian anti-union laws.
The first two events have been a tremendous success, the rallies - outside the court where the pickets were sentenced - reinvigorated the Shrewsbury 24 Campaign and brought the lessons of struggle and resistance to a wide layer of activist and campaigners both old and new.
The March and Rally is held in Shrewsbury because this was where the main trial took place. The actual events that led to them being charged took place in Telford so there is even more reason that the event on the first Saturday of July is supported by all local Trade Unionists. It's time that Justice was finally done and pardon given to those who have been criminalised for being Trade Unionists, their only crime was in fighting for decent terms and conditions. The campaign is also calling for a Public Inquiry to expose the role of successive governments and the secret services in the events surrounding this important time in labour history.
Follow link for photo collage of the first march
After the 1972 Building Workers’ National Strike 24 Trade Unionists were tried at Shrewsbury in a hostile act perpetrated by a Tory Government to criminalise picketing. A number of these men were given severe prison sentences. Best known of them were Des Warren and Ricky Tomlinson, who became referred to as the “Shrewsbury 2.” Des died as a direct result of the treatment that was meted out to him during his lengthy incarceration.
Successive Governments both Tory and Labour, have remained unresponsive to the calls for these perverse judgements to be set aside, and for these men to be cleared. There is now a renewal of the campaign, even after all this time, and the death of some of those involved, to secure justice for these Trade Union Comrades.
The campaign is also calling for a Public Inquiry to expose the role of successive governments and the secret services in the events surrounding this important time in labour history.
1st annual march "Justice my arse!"
This was to be a fateful day for these men. They would go on to be the victims of one of the worst miscarriages of justice seen in Britain since the days of the Tolpuddle Martyrs. They would be vilified and hounded by parts of the press, convicted by a court as a deterrent to strikers, and abandoned by their own union leaders and the TUC.
Six of them would go to prison and one of these would die later as a result of the treatment he received while there.
The strike had begun in June 1972 on selected major building sites, the first of these being Marks and Spencers in Liverpool. Pressure from the rank and file soon forced the Union of Construction Allied Trades and Technicians (UCATT) and the Transport and General Workers Union (TGWU) to call all their members out.
The strikers wanted a 35-hour week, a national minimum wage and an end to 'The Lump', a system of paying workers illegally, cash in hand, which undermines union organisation and safety.
In the Bull & Stirrup, Ricky Tomlinson says, the strike committees: " …discussed picketing in the Shrewsbury area, where many of the big sites had still not come out.
We voted to organise a big picket for the following week, with coaches bringing building workers from the surrounding districts."
Police outriggers escorted the coaches from site to site, and apart from minor scuffles everything was peaceful. Most of the sites they visited supported the strike and there were no arrests.
Des Warren was even congratulated on his conduct of a meeting by the officer in charge, Police Superintendent Meredith, who shook his hand.
The strike ended on 15 September with the biggest pay increase ever recorded for workers in the building industry, although it didn't remove 'The Lump'.
In October 1972, the Home Secretary Robert Carr instructed chief constables to investigate violent picketing. Carr was responding to a dossier, almost entirely made up of press cuttings, handed to him by the National Federation of Building Trades Employers.
This set in train a massive operation by the police to find 'Terror Pickets' - a term used by the press - raiding dozens of ordinary building workers' homes and subjecting them to intense questioning.
Although we now refer to them as the Shrewsbury 24, there were actually 31 North Wales building workers charged. The first trials were in Mold and they were used as a dress rehearsal for Shrewsbury.
Only minor charges were upheld by the jury and all the pickets walked free. But five of those cleared were to appear again at a later trial.
In his opening address at the first of three Shrewsbury trials on 3 October 1973, prosecuting counsel, Maurice Drake QC, told the jury that the pickets would be described as being, 'like a swarm of Apache Indians'.
One of their witnesses said he heard pickets shouting 'Kill! Kill! Kill!'. The pickets had actually been shouting 'Kill! Kill! Kill! The Lump'.
Unlawful assembly and conspiracy to intimidate had been added to the earlier charge of affray. The conspiracy charge, using an act of 1875, allowed for an unlimited jail sentence.
Drake explained the incredible nature of this charge. You didn't have to meet, you didn't even have to know each other; a conspiracy could be arranged 'with a nod and a wink'.
Three of the pickets - Warren, Tomlinson and McKinsie Jones - were found guilty and given prison sentences of up to nine years (three years on each charge). McKinsie Jones hadn't even been in the Bull & Stirrup at the time of the decision to picket the Shrewsbury sites!
At the end of the trial, and before sentencing, Des Warren and Ricky Tomlinson spoke from the dock. Both speeches laid out clearly their thoughts on how the trial had been set up to criminalise picketing, that it was a political trial.
Warren told the court:
The leaders of UCATT and TGWU, though, had abandoned the pickets. They had refused them representation at the outset of the trial. And now three had been jailed, they wouldn't support the calls for action to get them released, nor even appeals against sentence.
Although hampered by the response from trade union leaders, the groundswell of support for the pickets gained momentum. At the time of the trials there had been industrial action in support, notably from the Liverpool dockers. And in early 1974 workers stopped work in London and Glasgow, and 25 major building sites in Manchester.
Pending appeals Warren and Tomlinson (McKinsie Jones having been released) were allowed bail in June. When, in October, they were sent back to prison, with the appeal court verdict that the sentences were a deterrent to others, workers on building sites all over the country spontaneously walked out, only to be told to get back to work by their unions.
In early 1975 Lancashire building workers marched from Wigan to London calling for a general strike for the release of the two pickets still in jail.
By this time a Labour Government had been elected and the trade union leaders did not want to "rock the boat". The TUC did meet with the Home Secretary, Roy Jenkins, only to be rejected. Jack Jones, General Secretary of the TGWU, declared that the General Council of the TUC would not even consider the call for a general strike.
Warren and Tomlinson continued their sentences, Des in 14 different jails, encountering squalid conditions and hostility from prison staff in most of them. As part of their campaign to prove their innocence and that they were political prisoners, both men went on hunger strike and 'on the blanket' for long periods, and refused to do prison work. Warren, in particular, was singled out for punishment, with many months of solitary confinement and cuts in visits from his wife, Elsa, and the children.
When Tomlinson came out of jail in July 1975, he joined the campaign for the release of Warren but, once again, there was a lack of support from the trade union leaders.
Des Warren served all but four months of his sentence and was released on 5 August 1976.
Warren died on 24 April 2004 of Parkinson's disease. He laid the blame for his illness squarely on the ‘liquid cosh’, the tranquillising drugs administered to difficult prisoners like him while in prison.
The Shrewsbury Pickets Campaign was renewed in August 2006. The demand is justice for the pickets, and a public inquiry to expose the real conspiracy. There are still many questions that remain unanswered about the events surrounding the Shrewsbury trials, not least the role of MI5.
Such a campaign has a clear relevance for workers in today's casualised construction industry with its appalling safety record.
Des Warren, The Key to My Cell, New Park Publications (1982), to be republished in May 2007 by Living History Library.
Ricky Tomlinson, Ricky, Time Warner Paperbacks (2003).
Peter Hain, Political Trials in Britain, From the Past to the Present Day, Penguin (1985).
Jim Arnison, The Shrewsbury Three, Strikes, Pickets and 'Conspiracy', Lawrence and Wishart (1974).