Tomorrow marks the 30th anniversary of the Tory Government’s decision to ban trade unions at the Government Communications Head Quarters (GCHQ). On 25 January 1984, the Foreign Secretary announced that independent unions would be banned – an unprecedented attack on freedom of association.

Strong response from union and Labour movement

Led by the civil service unions and the TUC, the UK trade union and Labour movement fought the ban. At the forefront of this were the brave union members at GCHQ who refused to give up their rights, 14 of whom were sacked for retaining their union membership.

Through their steadfast campaign and the support of the wider movement, one of the first acts of the Labour government in May 1997 was the restoration of trade union rights at GCHQ. An achievement rightly marked by a symbolic march back to GCHQ by the sacked trade unionists.

Not to be forgotten

It is important that we remember and mark this anniversary. An historic wrong visited on the trade union movement by a Tory Government. A callous act, reflecting the Tories’ hatred of trade unions and their malevolent lie that to be a trade unionist is to be “an enemy within”.

We see this in the papers now released on the use of the state against the miners in the strike of 1984. And in the continued refusal of the Conservative and Lib Dem government to release the papers on the conspiracy to convict, imprison and persecute the Shrewsbury 24 highlighted in yesterday’s Parliamentary debate.

Attacks on unions continue today

This continues to the present day. In the support for and cover up of the widespread blacklisting of trade unionists in the construction industry; in the government attacks on trade union subscriptions and facility time in the civil service and public sector; and in the pernicious Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Union Administration Bill aimed at state surveillance of trade union records and invasion of the privacy of individual trade union members.

Stephen Cavalier, Chief Executive of Thompsons said:

“The 30th anniversary of the heinous decision to remove trade union rights at GCHQ is a fitting occasion to salute the powerful and resolute campaign of those brave trade unionists and the wider labour movement which not only restored those rights but kept alive the issue of freedom of association as a fundamental right throughout the dark days of Tory government.

Again now we have a Tory government who, with Lib Dem support, are determined to trample on the rights of trade unions and invade the privacy and freedom of trade union members. We must fight to retain those rights and freedoms which are essential in a civilised society.”