Newcastle: Craigielea Care Home Campaign

A black and white image of a group of people carrying homemade campaign banners. The roof of a house can be seen behind the group
  Craigielea carers' campaign. Courtesy of Richard Grassick

Sacked for Caring! Campaign record cover

When

1988

Where

Gateshead, Tyne and Wear

In 1988, an employer at the Craigielea Care Home in Gateshead sacked 19 members of staff, some of whom were long-serving nurses and carers at the home.

The National Union of Public Employees had previously given notice of a 12-hour stoppage over the attitude of the matron, the lack of a proper disputes’ procedure and the treatment of patients. However, new anti-union laws introduced by the Thatcher government allowed the employer to sack staff and refuse to negotiate.

It is hard to convey the feelings of those first few days when the staff gathered each morning at the union offices to organise their campaign. It gradually became apparent the employer was determined to teach them, and their union, a lesson in knowing their place.

Through their creativity and hard work, the sacked staff had turned a defeat into a victory.

Keith Hodgson, NUPE

In response, former staffers organised with the union to call for their re-instatement and fair treatment and the Craigielea campaign was born. They recorded a song describing their struggle entitled, Standing Strong, Holding On. This was successfully taken up by trade unions, the labour movement and local radio and TV which effectively promoted their campaign.

Sacked for Caring! Craigielea single performed by campaigners for the Craigielea Care Home Campaign.
Courtesy of the Rainbow Collective

The play Sacked for Caring! came out of campaigners’ contact with Richard Stourac, a lecturer in charge of Theatre Studies at Northumbria University. Two students agreed to work with the sacked workers in order to tell their story and the play, with the sacked workers as actors, toured all over the north and eventually to the national Labour Party conference.

Sacked For Caring! campaign record cover

The campaign lasted nine months and although they were not re-instated, the creativity and hard work of the sacked staffers led to new job opportunities and condemnation of the employer, including by the Bishop of Durham.

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