Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Hither Green 1988: a strike against the far right

I guess everyone knows about the 1977 anti-fascist Battle of Lewisham, less remembered is the 1988 fight by a group of  workers against the employment of a far right activist in a local unemployment benefits office. Malcolm Skeggs had been a long term leading activist in the racist National Front (including standing for them as an election candidate) and then in the British National Party. After apparently being sacked from a job in Lewisham Council, he got a job at the Hither Green office of the Department of Health and Social Security. When workers there got wind of this they raised objections about somebody with his views working there and having access to claimants' personal records. They were threatened with disciplinary action for refusing to work alongside him.

In April 1988, members of the Civil and Public Servants Association (CPSA) at Hither Green walked out on indefinite strike. There were daily pickets of the office, and a 1,000 strong demonstration in support of the strike in May. A regional day of action called by the union saw 20,000 CPSA members go on strike at DHSS offices and job centres across the London area on 26 May 1988. The strike came to an end in June after DHSS management moved Skeggs from Hither Green to a staff training centre at Hinchley Wood in Surrey.

Here's a few contemporary reports found via Sparrows Nest archive and Marxists Internet Archive:

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