A sticky situation

Originally posted on PHMMcr:

A guest blog by Conservator Jenny Barsby

At PHM we collect objects which have a story and this is often told through the physical condition of the piece, if a banner has holes or stains these may be a clue to how, where or why it was used. As is often the case with social history collections we sometimes deal with complex objects made from a variety of materials, many of the textiles I treat show signs of wear and tear or may be disfiguring if viewed in a different context. It is my job as a conservator to preserve this evidence while ensuring that the object is safe for storage and display.

As well as maintaining our existing collection and preparing objects for display we treat new objects as they come in. When a new object comes into the Textile Conservation Studio the first thing I do is a…

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Trade Unionism at the British Conference of Undergraduate Research

York Trades Council member discusses paper at British Conference of Undergraduate Research.

The British Conference of Undergraduate Research (BCUR) is an annual conference taking place at different venues across the UK. This year the conference was hosted at Winchester University and displayed a wide variety of research topics.

It was good to see that amongst the discussions of Chemistry, English and Philosophy that I was not alone in approaching the topic of labour unions. Another delegate held an interesting presentation looking at the role of Chinese labour unions in the global economy. This is encouraging as it not only shows young people getting involved in labour politics, but highlights a shift in attitudes towards trade unionism in higher education.

The presentation I gave was titled Decline of Collectivism in the Labour movement?: Individualism, Neoliberalism and Collective Identification. The title and content was derived from an article published earlier this year in the FIELDS journal.

The presentation was mostly well received. Many delegates discussed the themes within the project as well as their own experiences of work. This included how much the workplace has changed, transformations in the labour movement and individual cases of workplace bullying and mistreatment.

Some delegates were also intrigued by the existence of trade unions in society, having previously being unaware of their existence. This prompted delegates to speak of part-time, precarious work experiences as well as agreeing with the need for trade unions to reinvent themselves for a new generation.

The project of course was not without its criticisms. The research I had conduct was based on the analysis of interview data where participants communicated lived experiences within the movement. Some felt that non-numerical data had no place within the economic statements I was making. I take objection to this as whilst something may make sense numerically its application can have adverse social effects. These social effects are best measured through the analysis of lived experiences.

Another criticism arose from the papers’ observation of increased wealth inequality. Some commentators felt that “a rising tide raises all ships” despite many contemporary researchers – including Piketty, Wilkinson and Pickett – presenting evidence to the contrary. Similarly a trickle down economic theory cannot work when the rich are not investing reflect in George Osbourne’s growth figures this week.

Over all it was fantastic to see trade unionism picking up interest amongst young researchers. It highlights the possibilities of a new and exciting future for the labour movement.

A free download of the original article is available from the link below:



York trade unionists to honour the workplace dead

steps of York Minster, 12pm noon Tuesday April 28th
Commemorated on 28th April each year, International Workers’ Memorial Day encourages us to “Remember the dead and, fight for the living”. Trade unions remember all those killed through work, while at the same time seek to ensure that such tragedies are not repeated. Workers’ Memorial Day is commemorated throughout the world. Representatives of York & District TUC will be holding a vigil outside York Minster and calling on trade union members as well as the general public to join us in remembering those workers who went to work one day and never returned.
The vigil will take place at 12 noon on Tuesday 28th April and will begin with a small number of speakers including Karl Stephenson of construction union UCATT, whose union has to deal with health and safety much more than most. Leigh Wilks (York TUC President & Regional Executive) and others will speak about the historic battles to gain safety in the workplace and the need for that safety to not be sacrificed on the altar of profit. After the event, a delegation of TUC representatives will proceed to the memorial site of the railway carriage works on Holgate Road to leave flowers in an act of remembrance for those who have been lost.
Whether union member or not, we welcome everyone to attend who wishes to pay their respects to those, who often in the service of great and historic projects, lost their lives. There are still horrific cases of injuries of death and injury in UK workplaces every year. Workers Memorial Day is about not just commemorating the lost but also raising awareness of the dangers of work so families don’t have to go through the horror of losing a loved one to a workplace accident.
If you are on your lunch hour, come along and pay your respects. It is only through the sacrifice of previous generations in the working class and trade union movements that we have the legal protections we enjoy at work on so many fronts – with health and safety being no exclusion.It is makes perfect sense that we honour those who had to die to afford us those rights.

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