This week we turn the clocks back 100 years to March 27, 1918, when it was reported in the pages of the Yorkshire Post that a strike by munitions workers in Leeds was settled, with workers returning to work on this date.
A statement from the Board of Control read: “We are glad to be able to report that wise counsels have prevailed, with the gratifying result being that the needs of our soldiers at the Front have been recognised as necessitating an immediate resumption of work at the ordinance factories.”
It went on to say that the strike lasted a week and was conducted by skilled workmen but inevitably affected the semi-skilled labourers too. It arose over the dismissal of four millwrights, who refused to do a certain job because they considered it too dangerous.
Part of the deal which saw the men go back to work was that the sacked millwrights be replaced and that an independent inquiry be launched into the original incident. They also demanded that those who were dismissed retain their pensions. Remarkably, the Ministry of Munitions was said to support this view, which drew the comment that the did “not understand Leeds”, as the demand was initially turned down by the Board of Control.
But the report contains more sensation, because the Yorkshire Post itself was attacked for its reporting of the incident. It was claimed that the paper falsely reported that the “danger” which initially sparked the strike was removed prior to the four millwrights being replaced. However, the newspaper pointed out that it had made no such report and had, indeed, indicated the opposite. It adds: “We are informed there was no removed of the alleged danger... therefore [there was no] deliberate suppression.”