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The Liverpool Typists Strike 1981 - Putting The Record Straight

Updated: Jun 18

At a recent Labour Party meeting in Liverpool I asked who had heard of the Ford Machinists strike in Dagenham. Most of the meeting knew about it, some from the film ‘Made in Dagenham”. I then asked who’d heard of the 1981 Liverpool Typists Strike. Only two people raised their hand. The typists strike involved 400 low paid women, lasted six months, had a musical based on it, and had taken place on our doorstep. The Dagenham strike was a hugely important dispute but had involved 187 women and had lasted four weeks in a town 200 miles away. So why has the courageous battle of the Liverpool Typists been largely forgotten? An article in North West Labour History magazine tries to put the record straight and give the typists the acknowledgement they so richly deserve. The typists were members of NALGO (now part of Unison) and were employed by Liverpool City Council, then controlled by the Liberal Party. They were categorised as officially low paid and had few career prospects, being barred from the day release courses available to admin and clerical workers. When they started a work to rule/go slow some typists were suspended by the council and after a ballot began an all out strike. The strikers were paid £20 a week and showed enormous courage and resilience in a strike that lasted nearly six months, ending in an agreement to go to arbitration , a process that led to a disappointing outcome. The Liberal-run council refused to budge throughout the dispute, their attitude being summed up by a councillor who said their tactics were ‘the equivalent of the Hitler Youth Movement”. No, really! The following year the strike was dramatised by Clare Luckham in a musical at the Everyman Theatre. The article is based on interviews with two of the strikers, Helen Morgan and Denise Knibb, the memories of the son of the late Rose Dee, the first person to be suspended, and documents from the Unison branch office. You can read the whole article by getting a copy of the magazine via www.nwlh.org.uk.




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