Union Activist Admits: I Voted Against Strike Action

One of the best-known names in the National Union of Journalists in Scotland admits voting against strike action during one of most protracted industrial disputes in Scottish newspaper history.

On BBC Radio Scotland this morning, Frank Morgan – until recently, Father of Chapel at the Daily Record – says he voted against the action, at the Aberdeen Journals, in 1989.

He speculates it later cost him his marriage. But as deputy FoC at Aberdeen Journals, he complied with the majority wish to go on strike and helped lead his members on what was to become a year-long dispute.

Morgan is speaking in the last episode of a six-part series, Strike, being broadcast today, from 11.30am.

The strike was sparked by management attempts at the Press and Journal and the Evening Express to de-recognise the NUJ and have staff sign individual contracts. It cost more than 100 jobs, including Morgan’s.

The dispute was in two stages, the first lasting three weeks, the second prompted by victimisation of staff who had taken part during the first stage.

“I’ll confess, for the first time in nearly 20 years, I voted against the second strike. But it was a democratic body and I came out and I gave it my best shot.”

Morgan felt management had, by inviting a second strike, reconciled themselves to, and prepared for, a long battle.

The strike cost the NUJ an estimated one million pounds and pushed it to the brink of bankruptcy.

Local councils backed the strike by declining to advertise in the papers and, afterwards, many involved in the strike had reason to believe they were ‘blacklisted’, from at least working in Aberdeen again.

To this day, wounds have not entirely healed.

Adds Morgan: “I know quite a few people who…..if they see a strike-breaker walking down the street, they cross the street to avoid them.”

Comment: The issue here is not Frank’s initial vote on action. The whole point of such a vote is to ascertain the views of the members. However, the carrying out of the collective decision is (or should not) be a matter for individual decision. The union – ie the members – has spoken, the union – ie the members – must carry it out. Chris Bartter.

Comment: I would never break the confidence of the final meeting which voted for the action in Aberdeen, but Frank needn't beat himself up about any decision he personally made that day. Some of those that voted with him went on to become the most ardent protagonists of the strike. It just proves the strength of the collective. You can debate and even lose that debate but still be a strong member of the combined membership that push to win a point. The strength of democracy is to have had that debate, know your own viewpoint has had a chance to be considered, but then for all to join together to support the majority decision. There were some who failed to grasp that principle and felt they could pick and choose which parts of the democratic process they wish to follow. They would have expected everyone to follow them back to work had they won the argument but were unprepared to follow the majority decision when it differed from their own. Poor judgment in my opinion and one which denied them the chance to experience some wonderful comradeship, integrity and courage displayed by their former colleagues in some dark days of adversity. Rory MacLeod.

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