Ex Cammell Laird Workers Petition European Parliament Over Miscarriage Of Justice Arising From 1984 Official Strike Over Job Losses
The victims hope to get a hearing in the European Parliament in the autumn having exhausted all channels at national level to get access to information and justice says GMB.
GMB member and ex Cammell Laird worker Mr Edward Marnell from Aintree, Liverpool and others on 4th July made a petition in the form of complaint to the European Parliament in respect of the unjust treatment of Cammell Laird strikers since 1984.
The title of the petition is: Petition in the form of a complaint to the European Parliament in respect of the unjust treatment of Cammell Laird strikers. See notes to editors for a copy of the statement with the petition.
In 1984 these workers took official strike action over job losses. They were dismissed, jailed for 30 days and all their redundancy and pension rights were rescinded.
Since then every effort to locate official documentation related to the decision to prosecute them, the severity of the sentencing for contempt, their incarceration in the high security Walton Prison and the termination of all employment rights by the company, have failed.
These members hope to get a hearing at European Parliament Committee most likely in the autumn.
Kathleen Walker Shaw, GMB European officer, said “This case is submitted in the form of a complaint to the Petitions Committee by GMB members exercising their right as EU citizens to the right of petition of the European Parliament.
The unjust treatment of the Cammell Laird strikers constitutes a longstanding miscarriage of justice. There have been consistent attempts since 1984 to obtain information, answers and justice (including requests to UK Heads of State and justice ministers) regarding the contravention of basic human rights of the people involved under established European and international laws, Treaties and conventions. Yet to date their stated rights of respect for the principle of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the rule of law under Art. 6 of the Treaty of the European Union (1) have been denied.
The Cammell Laird workers involved in the official strike action were persistently denied access to justice, and there has been no access to information and documentation to build a case and to seek recourse to due process.
The victims of the case are turning to the European Parliament in despair having exhausted all legal and freedom of information channels at national level to get access to information and justice.
GMB has supported the campaign for these workers to get justice and this petition is the next step in a long and so far frustrating battle. These members hope to get a hearing at European Parliament Committee in the autumn”.
Contact: Kathleen Walker Shaw, GMB European Officer 07841 181 549 or 00 32 2 230 56 75 or Eddie Marnell 07876 210 337 or GMB press office 07921 289880 or 07974 251 823
Notes to Editors: Statement in the petition.
1.1 This case is submitted in the form of a complaint to the Petitions Committee, exercising our right as EU citizens to the right of petition of the European Parliament.
1.2 This case of the unjust treatment of the Cammell Laird strikers constitutes a longstanding miscarriage of justice. There have been consistent attempts since 1984 to obtain information, answers and justice (including requests to UK Heads of State and justice ministers) regarding the contravention of basic human rights of the people involved under established European and international laws, Treaties and conventions. Yet to date their stated rights of respect for the principle of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the rule of law under Art. 6 of the Treaty of the European Union (1) have been denied.
1.3 The Cammell Laird workers involved in the strike action were persistently denied access to justice, and there has been no access to information and documentation to build a case and to seek recourse to due process.
1.4 The victims of the case are turning to the European Parliament in despair having exhausted all legal -and freedom of information channels at national level to get access to information and justice.
2.1 In May 1984, Cammell Laird, one of the UK’s largest shipbuilders, announced compulsory redundancies for almost 50% of their workforce in Liverpool docks North West England, an area of already high unemployment and poverty, without formal consultation with the trade unions.
2.2 It is relevant to the historical context that the national miners’ strike was underway at this time, faced with the aggressively anti-trade union government of Margaret Thatcher. What might be considered the most violent flashpoint of that dispute – Orgreave – was in June 1984.
2.3 It was agreed amongst the workforce that industrial action should be taken, and in the absence of any agreement with management, strike action was commenced in defence of their jobs. A group of forty three workers occupied a gas accommodation rig and, later, a Royal naval frigate, being built at the yard. It should be noted that occupation was a common form of action in industrial disputes at that time, miners occupied pits during the same period, but no other worker has ever been charged for trespass and ensuing contempt of court for such action in an industrial dispute before or since.
2.4 On 3rd September 1984, the workers were dismissed for gross misconduct.
2.5 On 13th September 1984, they were made subject to an order in the Liverpool Registry of the High Court to vacate the occupied premises on the basis of unlawful trespass, or be found in contempt of court. The striking workers were served orders of contempt of court in absentia which we believe is a disproportionate response to legitimate strike action.
2.6 During the occupation there was major police and special services presence on the shipyard, and it would be natural to expect there would be documentation relating to these resources and their activities at that time – yet no documentation has been provided. The most recent freedom of information request was to the special branch in 2012.
2.7 On 3rd October 1984 a plain clothes government or police official who would not identify themselves told the strikers that if they failed to vacate the vessels immediately loss of life could be risked. Special services were seen climbing an adjacent tower. On the basis of this threat they vacated the properties and were then immediately arrested and taken to Walton prison. It has never been made clear how the decision was taken to sentence them to thirty days imprisonment for contempt, and no documentation supporting this decision has been found.
2.8 Walton Prison was a high security prison used to house men convicted of the most serious offences. For four weeks, each of the Cammell Laird workers was held in isolation locked down for twenty three hours a day. It is important to note that the striking workers were imprisoned in a top security wing of the prison following legitimate strike action which ended peacefully and without harm to property. This was clearly disproportionate action and a breach of Article 11 ECHR freedom of association.
2.9 All redundancy and pension rights were rescinded. Further, they were unable to find work in shipbuilding again - effectively blacklisted for their activism and denied their fundamental right to work as a result of exercising their trade union rights.
2.10 The workers filed claims for unfair dismissal, and the return of their redundancy payments, but in December 1985, those claims were dismissed by the employment tribunal. The claim for unfair dismissal was dismissed on the grounds that the tribunal believed that occupation of the works did amount to gross misconduct. This seems disproportionate given that occupation was a common form of action in industrial dispute at the time.
2.11 The tribunal did not explain their decision in respect of the loss of redundancy payments but appear to have been swayed by the fact that Cammell Laird had to go to court to end the occupation. This is unlawful and irrelevant to the termination of payment rights. The workers were denied the right to appeal against this decision.
2.12 Further, since that time, every effort to locate official documentation related to the decision to prosecute them, the severity of the sentencing for contempt, their incarceration in the high security Walton Prison and the termination of all employment rights by the company, have failed.
2.13 All efforts to locate any documents through government petitions and freedom of information act requests to government departments, regulators, prosecution services, police and the prison system as well as appeals to Prime Ministers and Government Ministers have yielded a complete absence of documentation. No satisfactory explanation for the absence of documents and records has been offered. This lack of documentation is out with normal administrative practices of the Government, police and judiciary. However, evidence is now coming to light that other high profile cases around that time, including the Hillsborough disaster and the miners’ strike, have revealed similar irregularities of withholding and falsification of statements and information by the Government and police authorities, indicating this was a culture at the time.
3. Substance of the Complaint
3.1 This petition in the form of a complaint relates to the breach of principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the rule of law, the denial of due process, denial of access to representation, denial of access to fair and proportionate justice, denial of access to information, denial of rights under data protection, and denial of employment rights. It involves breaches of the following Treaties, Charters, Conventions and laws:
3.2 Breach of Article 6 of the Treaty of the European Union (consolidated version) and the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the rule of law regarding the treatment of the Cammell Laird workers.
3.3 Breaches of the Charter of Fundamental Rights (and relevant accompanying ECHR provisions):
3.3.1 Breach of Dignity - Breach of a right to human dignity (Article 1) - Denial of protection from inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment (Article 4) The sanction imposed by the court of four weeks imprisonment for contempt, was excessive and disproportionate. The decision to place the men in solitary confinement on 23 hour lockdown in a maximum security prison amounted to degrading and inhumane treatment and punishment, and was politically motivated in a climate of anti-trade union sentiment by government.
3.3.2 Breach of Freedoms: - Right to Liberty and Security (Article 6) and Article 5 of ECHR - Protection of personal data (Article 8) also rights under EU Data protection regulations - Freedom of association and of assembly (Article 12 and Article 11 ECHR) - Freedom to choose an occupation and the right to engage in work (Article 15) .
3.3.2 - Right to property (Article 17) and protection of property under Art 1 1st Protocol of ECHR The imprisonment of the workers without fair trial and the right of defence was a breach of their right to freedom and security. This in turn unjustly affected their ability and right to take action against the termination of their employment. They were penalised for freedom of association as trade unionists, and subsequently prevented from working in their professional sector in the shipbuilding industry – effectively blacklisted for exercising their rights to freedom of association. This denial of their right to work also indicated a clear breach of their right to protection of personal data which should have prevented them from being blacklisted.
3.3.4 Breach of right to Solidarity - Rights to information and consultation within the undertaking (Article 27) - Rights of collective bargaining and action (Article 28) - Protection in the event of unjustified dismissal (Article 30) The actions taken were a breach of a workers right to information and consultation within the undertaking, and a breach of the right to collective bargaining and to take trade union action. They were also denied protection for unjustified and unfair dismissal and denied the right to redundancy pay and pension. Loss of pension rights being seen in other case law as a loss of right of protection of property and of legitimate expectations being deprived. These actions and decisions did not follow due process and were politically motivated - taken to punish the workers for trade union action and to send a politically motivated warning to other union members considering collective action.
3.3.5 Breach of citizens’ rights - Right to good administration (Article 41) - The persistent failure to supply access to documents, requested over many years, to provide insight into the decisions made to prosecute and punish the workers, incarcerate them in a high security prison and to hold them under inhumane conditions and treatment amounts to a breach of their rights to be heard and to access information held by a Member State government. It is our position that the total absence of supporting documentation related to a number of official government and police activities is due to the fact that these decisions were politically motivated, disproportionate and unlawful, and a denial of due process.
3.3.6 Breach of right to justice - Right to effective remedy and to a fair trial (Article 47) and Art 6 and Article 13 ECHR - Presumption of innocence and right of defence (Article 48) - Principles of legality and proportionality of criminal offences and penalties (Article 49) The punishment of the workers amounts to a denial of their right to a fair trial, representation, effective remedy, and the principles of proportionality and legality were ignored. Further the loss of redundancy pay and pension rights amounts to being punished twice for the same actions. The workers were denied the right of appeal to their unjust dismissal in 1985.The validity of the right to remedy even if the right to justice is not realised has been successfully argued in cases relating to this convention and needs to be considered in this case.
The Cammell Laird strikers were imprisoned without due process, thus breaching Article 6 of the Human Rights Convention (the right to a fair trial). In pursuing a common action of occupation as part of an industrial dispute in defence of their jobs the workers suffered a breach of their rights under Article 11 the right to freedom of assembly and association.
The high profile decision of the ECtHR on the right to collective bargaining Demir and Bakara v. Turkey – 34503/97  ECtHR 1345. (12 Nov. 2008) further confirms their rights under this Article.
Further, the Cammell Laird strikers have been left without remedy, despite having exhausted domestic channels to obtain answers for their unjust treatment and some form of redress. Several of the men wrongly imprisoned are sadly no longer with us and went to their grave with this injustice being unresolved and with no remedy and formal apology for their inhumane treatment.
This sense of injustice remains with the families they have left behind. The workers involved now feel forced to request support at a European level in a formal complaint, and for this case to be considered by the Petitions Committee of the European Parliament.
End. Filed in the name of: Edward Marnell and others.