Durham Miners’ Gala union speaker to back striking Metro cleaners

Dave Hopper, secretary of the Durham Miners' Association and Tony Benn, right, on the balcony of the County Hotel. 128th Durham Miner's Gala. Saturday 14th July 2012

Dave Hopper, secretary of the Durham Miners' Association and Tony Benn, right, on the balcony of the County Hotel. 128th Durham Miner's Gala. Saturday 14th July 2012

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THE annual Durham Miners’ Gala will coincide with a strike on the Metro.

A bumper crowd is expected at the 129th Big Meeting on Saturday.

Dozens of bands and banners will parade from Durham City Market Place, past the VIP guests on the balcony of the Durham Marriott Royal County hotel and on to the Racecourse field.

Speakers this year include TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady and Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT union.

Mr Crow is to give his backing to striking Tyne and Wear Metro cleaners during his speech.

The cleaners have been in a pay and conditions dispute with their contract employers Churchill for more than a year, but are due to begin two weeks of strikes on Friday to coincide with the Gala and Mr Crow’s visit to Durham.

Mr Crow said: “RMT members have shown guts and determination through a long and hard campaign, with well over a year of rock-solid strike action in the fight for workplace and pay justice.”

Also speaking is Hillsborough disaster campaigner Margaret Aspinall, who lost her 18-year-old son in the 1989 tragedy.

Gala organiser Durham Miners’ Association (DMA) want to see a Hillsborough-style inquiry into clashes between miners and South Yorkshire police outside the Orgreave coking plant in the 1984-5 strike. It’s the same police force, and we feel there should be an inquiry,” said DMA general secretary Dave Hopper.

In his annual pre-Gala message, Mr Hopper harks back to the policing of the strike in County Durham.

“The recent allegations against Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate are of particular interest to Durham miners,” writes Mr Hopper.

“He masterminded policing in Durham during the strike.

“On his watch, our legal rights were violated and we were subject to gratuitous violence.”

Funding is in place for this year’s Gala and 2014, but Mr Hopper is appealing for donations to secure the event’s longer term future.

Details of the recently formed Friends of the Gala are at www.durhamminers.org.