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Fighting the Bill (1970)


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Protests against the Industrial Relations Bill and clashes with Police, accompanied by a song about the founding of the Trades Union movement and its achievements. Headlines about disputes. Pickets at mass meetings and marches in Britain and Europe. Television images of the Vietnam War.

Mike Cooley, a shop steward for the draughtsman's union DATA, describes the opposing interests of the ruling and working classes. He explains that the state intervenes to protect the interests of employers and relates how governments are responding to the nationalist movements in former colonial territories by repressing workers at home. Closed factories and the entrance to the Stock Exchange. A car production line. Cooley identifies the problem of 'overproduction' as the result of organising society around profit rather than social need. Technological change has led to employers insisting on shift work. He calls on the working class to define the national interest for itself.

Workers from various industries and unions describe current problems. Tom Langan criticises the incorporation of unions in other countries, calling it a way of diminishing their power. May Hobbs speaks angrily about means-tested benefits and the rise in rents. She demands that housewives support their men when they need to strike. Don Cook and Kevin Halpin argue respectively for the role of unions in protecting workers from pay cuts by rent increase and for the democratic forms of the unions.

The speakers call on workers to resist the proposed registration of unions, to defend overtime bans and secondary action as vital weapons and to oppose secret ballots. A protest song celebrates the unions' power. Tom Langan explains the belief that the working class should act from mass consciousness and not individual choice. He says this is why mass ballots are the legitimate form of democratic expression in unions. His points are illustrated by an animation of a boss and two workers in dispute.

An unseen speaker appeals for various workers' organisations to co-ordinate their struggle for rights and to reject racism. A multi-racial crowd of workers leaves a factory. Protesters in Trafalgar Square. A crowd sings the Internationale.