Nostalgia: Hopkinsons’ links to the George Hotel

TURMOIL surrounding Huddersfield’s George Hotel has rekindled memories of a turbulent time in the history of one of the town’s former firms.

Ian Gyde, of Birchencliffe
Ian Gyde, of Birchencliffe

TURMOIL surrounding Huddersfield’s George Hotel has rekindled memories of a turbulent time in the history of one of the town’s former firms.

The town centre hotel – now seeking a buyer – played a pivotal role in resolving a long-running dispute at Birkby valve company Hopkinsons during the 1970s – when industrial strife regularly hit the national headlines.

Six employees who were members of white-collar union TASS had been dismissed in November 1976 for alleged misconduct – prompting a sit-in by 250 TASS members in support of their sacked colleagues and 24-hour picketing to try to starve Hopkinsons of supplies.

There were mass meetings protesting at the sackings and Hopkinsons even went to the High Court in London to get an injunction banning the six sacked workers from entering the firm’s premises.

The increasingly acrimonious dispute – which also involved a row over wages and plans to change staffing arrangements – dragged on for five months before both sides agreed to a “peace formula” thrashed out by a committee chaired by Frank Cousins, a former leader of the Transport and Workers’ Union.

One of the “Birkby Six” at the centre of the storm was Birchencliffe man Ian Gyde, who was a production design draughtsman at Hopkinsons which he joined in 1972 after working for both David Brown Gears and David Brown Tractors.

He recalls: “It was a long and bitter strike and feelings were running high on both sides for some time. “But what started the process of resolving the dispute was a meeting between the full-time union officials and management on February 1, 1977, at the George Hotel.

“The aim was to find some common ground to begin talking and the George was the perfect place because it was a neutral venue.”

Reporting on the outcome of the dispute, The Examiner of Friday April 1, 1977, said the six workers were to be reinstated while aspects of the wage claim were referred to arbitration by ACAS. The union also agreed to co-operate in “re-organisation and re-allocation in some staff areas.”

At the time, another of the sacked men, Granville Clay, told the paper: “Commonsense has prevailed. This is a victory for reason. It shows that however diametrically opposed two sides are, it is possible to sit down and reach a mutual agreement.”

 
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