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The Grunwick dispute, 1976-8: Sources at the Modern Records Centre

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-west 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.

Grunwick dispute archive, 1975-1978Link opens in a new window

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.

Video recordings of interviews for 'The Great Grunwick Strike, 1976-1978 - a history', 2006-2007Link opens in a new window

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. Summaries and transcripts of some of the interviews are also available.

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 disputeLink opens in a new window. 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 disputeLink opens in a new window, 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 journalLink opens in a new window. The APEX collection also includes an broadsheet on GrunwickLink opens in a new window.

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 FryerLink opens in a new window 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 disputeLink opens in a new window.

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 studentsLink opens in a new window about police behaviour on the Grunwick picket line, 1977-1978.

National Union of Public Employees archive

Includes small amount of correspondenceLink opens in a new window 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:

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:


The following books are included in our reference library (on open display in the research area):

Additional material can be identified through our online catalogueLink opens in a new window.


Front page of 'Grunwicks Special', Right to Work Campaign Bulletin