The Grunwick dispute began in August 1976 when 137 workers, mostly South Asian women, walked out of the Grunwick film processing plant in Willesden, north-east London. The dispute centred on the poor conditions and lack of union recognition at Grunwick and involved the Association of Professional, Executive, Clerical and Computer Staff union (APEX), which represented the strikers. The strike, co-ordinated by the Grunwick Strike Committee and led by Jayaben Desai, became a cause celebre for the union movement, attracting a wide range of activist support to picket lines outside the plant. Such was the national impact of the dispute that the then Labour Government set up a Cabinet committee to deal with the issues it raised. The strike was finally called off by the remaining strikers in July 1978 after 670 days.
The Modern Records Centre holds significant collections relating to the Grunwick dispute, including the Grunwick dispute archive and recordings of interviews with key participants.
Copies of documents assembled after the end of the dispute from APEX and Brent Trades Council sources. The archive includes copies of APEX internal memoranda and correspondence, material relating to legal proceedings (including over alleged police brutality), minutes of proceedings at the Court of Inquiry chaired by Lord Justice Scarman, copies of press articles, and pamphlets and ephemera. The collection also includes a DVD of 'The Great Grunwick Strike 1976-1978. A History', produced for Brent Trades Union Council.
Recordings of interviews with key participants by Chris Thomas for the video history of the Grunwick dispute which he produced and directed on behalf of Brent Trades Union Council. Individuals interviewed include Jayaben Desai, Jack Dromey, Kanti Patel, Roy Grantham, Mahmood Ahmed and Dennis Skinner. Links from the catalogue (at item level) should allow you to play the full and unedited recordings online.
Trades Union Congress archive
The Trades Union Congress (TUC) is a voluntary association of trade unions which was formed in Manchester in 1868. It forms the largest pressure group in the United Kingdom and works to improve the rights and conditions of working people.
The TUC archive includes four files on the Grunwick dispute. These include internal memoranda, correspondence from trade unions (at both national and branch level), local trades councils and members of the public, resolutions, extracts from minutes and ephemera.
Union of Communication Workers archive
The Union of Post Office Workers (later renamed the Union of Communication Workers) became involved when its members refused to deliver post to and from the Grunwick plant. After the National Association for Freedom (NAFF) took legal action against the UPW for breaching the 1953 Post Office Act, it was agreed that the postal service would resume. Unofficial 'blacking' of the Grunwick post later restarted, resulting in the suspension of workers at Cricklewood by the Post Office.
The UCW archive includes a series of files on the Grunwick dispute, including a large number of press cuttings, papers relating to the National Association for Freedom court case, and UPW Executive Council documents and special branch circulars.
Association of Professional, Executive, Clerical and Computer Staff (APEX) archive
APEX was the union which represented the Grunwick strikers. The MRC has no executive minutes for this union, but the dispute is reported in APEX's journal. The APEX collection also includes an broadsheet on Grunwick.
Papers of Professor R.H. (Bob) Fryer
Professor Fryer worked at the University of Warwick in the Industrial Relations Research Unit between 1970-1973 and the Department of Sociology between 1973-1982.
Bob Fryer's archive includes a 12-page critical comment by Fryer on the employee opinion survey conducted for Grunwick Processing Laboratories Limited by Market and Opinion Research International (MORI), Jul 1977, and copies of other papers relating to the dispute.
Papers of William Wilson MP
William Wilson was Member of Parliament for Coventry South between 1964-1974, and for Coventry South East between 1974-1983.
Wilson's archive includes a file of complaints from Coventry trade unionists and students about police behaviour on the Grunwick picket line, 1977-1978.
National Union of Public Employees archive
Includes small amount of correspondence with the Association of Professional, Executive, Clerical and Computer Staff (APEX) on a proposed union for trade union staffs and the Grunwick dispute, 1977-1978.
Campaign bulletins, leaflets and other ephemera
Many of our trade union and political collections include publicity material circulated in support of the Grunwick strikers. These include:
- Socialist Party archives: bulletins and circulars relating to the Grunwick strike, including Grunwick Strike Committee (APEX) bulletins; 1970s leaflets, including 'Mass picket. The day of reckoning', Grunwick Strike Committee.
- Papers of Norman Jacobs, Civil and Public Services Association (CPSA) official and activist: Grunwick Strike Committee (APEX) bulletin,  and handbills, posters and leaflets concerning the Grunwick dispute.
- Papers of Lawrence Daly, General Secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers: file of publications, leaflets and ephemera, 1946-1983, including poem / song "Guide me to the Grunwick picket".
- Bookmarks Publications archive: 'Grunwick', Socialist Worker pamphlet, .
- Papers of Chris Bambery: 'The battle of Grunwick: View from the left', Socialist Challenge pamphlet by Geoff Bell, Mick Gosling, Jonathan Silberman and Tessa van Gelderen, 1977.
- Papers of Alistair Mutch: International Socialists / Socialist Workers Party leaflets on industrial relations and industrial action, c1975-1986, and posters, 1970s-1980s, including Grunwick.
- Papers of Nigel (Nog) Clark, International Socialists and Socialist Workers Party: bulletins, circulars and ephemera, 1977, and posters, leaflets, etc., from 1930s-1980s, including material re Grunwick;
- Coventry Trade Union Council: file of general correspondence, papers and circulars received for meetings in April 1978, including leaflets on the Grunwick dispute.
- Papers of Peter Nicholas, trade unionist: file of papers re solidarity action, industrial disputes and campaigns elsewhere, c1975-c1981, including circulars re the Grunwick dispute, 1976-1977.
- Miscellaneous collection, includes: Grunwick Strike Committee broadsheet: advice on arrest; balance sheet for Grunwick Benefit Dance, Coventry, September 1977; handbill re mass picket, 17 October 1977.
Newspapers and journals
The MRC holds collections of newspapers from various left-wing (mostly Trotskyist) and anarchist groups during the 1970s. These include reports, comment and photographs relating to the Grunwick dispute:
- Militant, Militant Tendency, nos. 285-336, 1976; nos. 337-386, 1977; nos. 387-436, 1978.
- Socialist Challenge, nos. 1- 20, 9 Jun-3 Nov 1977; nos. 21-40, 10 Nov 1977-9 Feb 1978.
- Socialist Worker, International Socialists / Socialist Workers Party, incomplete series between Jan 1976-Jan 1977
- The News Line, Workers' Revolutionary Party, incomplete series between May 1976-August 1978.
- Anarchy, no.23, .
- Black Flag, vol.5, nos. 1-13, c.1977-1980.
- Freedom, vol.38, nos. 6, 9-25, Apr-Dec 1977
- Shakti, journal of the National Association for Asian Youth, Jul 1982 (article on Jayaben Desai)
The following books are included in our reference library (on open display in the research area):
- Grunwick by Joe Rogaly (Penguin special), 1977
- Grunwick: The workers' story, by Jack Dromey and Graham Taylor (Lawrence & Wishart), 1978
- Fort Grunwick by George Ward (Temple Smith), 1977. Ward was the employer.
Additional material can be identified through our online catalogue.