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30 years after the Caterpillar Occupation: Trade Unions in Past, Present and Future

The role of trade unions in economic and social life was the theme of the March 2017 Policy Forum discussion at the Hamilton campus of UWS.

The Forum was timely, given the 30th anniversary of the Caterpillar factory occupation in nearby Uddingston. During 1987 the Caterpillar workers occupied the factory for over 100 days as they sought – ultimately unsuccessfully – to stop the closure of their plant by the US multinational. This closure was enforced against wide public opposition, only months after long-term commitments, backed by government financial support, had been provided to the workforce by the firm.

The Partnership was delighted to have John Gillen, John Brannan, and John Kane, former shop stewards at Caterpillar and leading members, both of the 1987 Joint Occupation Committee and of the recently former Caterpillar Legacy Group, as contributors to the discussion. In conversation with Dr Ewan Gibbs (Lecturer in Sociology and Social Policy, UWS), the three Johns’ recollections of the 1987 occupation provided the context for the wider discussion about the role of trade unions in economic and social life both then, now and also in the future.

The wider discussion was supported by contributions from John Foster (Emeritus Professor of History, UWS), Ann Henderson (Assistant Secretary, Scottish Trade Union Congress), Patricia Findlay (Professor of Work and Employment Relations, University of Strathclyde and Academic Adviser to the Scottish Government’s Fair Work Convention) and Bryan Simpson (Better than Zero campaign). Francis Stuart (Research and Policy Adviser, Oxfam Scotland, and Chik Collins (Professor of Applied Social Science, UWS) chaired and concluded the discussion. UWS Special Collections’ Allison Buchanan and colleagues prepared material for a book stall at the event.

Please find an in-depth report about this Policy Forum event here.

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