Caterpillar sit-in remembered

LOOKING BACK . . . former Caterpillar workers met up to reminisce over the fight to save the Tannochside factory in 1987.
LOOKING BACK . . . former Caterpillar workers met up to reminisce over the fight to save the Tannochside factory in 1987.

A LARGE turnout of former Caterpillar workers gathered at Tannochside Miners last week to celebrate the 25th anniversary of their famous 103 days of occupation.

The workers captured worldwide headlines when they locked out management as they decided to oppose closure and fight for the right to keep jobs in Scotland.

The occupation of the factory started after workers were told that £62.5 million worth of investment was being withdrawn and that the factory was to be closed.

The meeting of the ex-Caterpillar workers, arranged by the North Lanarkshire Trade Union Congress, heard from NLTUC secretary Hugh Gaffney who is part of the local community.

He told how Caterpillar came to Tannochside and were a welcome boost following the closure of the mines and that the local community for years shared in the success of Caterpillar.

He said that when the call of closure came, everyone felt the same shock as the workers, and told how pubs, clubs and shops in the area rallied round with even schoolchildren handing in pocket money.

Stephen Smellie from the Morning Star spoke of the political years of Maggie Thatcher and the Americans who decided to pull out with no consultation to the workers.

He said Caterpillar was a multi-national company which offered no apology and left many broken hearts.


Union official, assistant convener John Gillen, told of the meetings with members, politicians and the unions, during the sit-in and spoke of how much this was about unity.

He said he had been proud to stand together with workers who fought back and lasted the full 103 days of the ultimately unsuccessful sit-in.

Members of the audience, including local MP Tom Clarke, MSP Michael McMahon and local councillor Bob Burrows - who himself was part of the sit-in - recalled their own individual stories from fun and laughter to tears and hardship.

Bill McCabe, who was a young union steward at the time, spoke of how today’s generation of young workers could learn lessons from the Caterpillar dispute of yesterday.

Words of congratulation were read out from George Galloway, newly elected MP for Bradford, who tried unsuccessfully to persuade the firm to allow the famous Pink Panther tractor built by the workers during the dispute to go to charity.

There was also a message from Tony Benn, the former MP who visited the plant and spoke of the immense courage and determination which inspired others and which should be remebered with honour and tradition.

The meeting also suggested that a plaque should be erected to commemorate the workers’ battle and a sign to show within the local community were the former site once stood.