Bill Sirs

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Died in 2015.

"Bill Sirs, who has died aged 95, was the general secretary of the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation during the turbulent years of 1975 to 1985... Together with his friends Joe Gormley of the National Union of Mineworkers and Sid Weighell of the National Union of Railwaymen, he resurrected the historic triple alliance of the three industrial unions, but it fell bitterly apart during the 1984-85 coal strike when miners attempted to block coal and iron ore supplies to the steel industry, something that Sirs believed would bring about the physical collapse of steelworks." [1]

A member of Progress recalls of Sirs', "It was, however, his traditional, moderate but strongly pro-Labour views which in 1981 saw him help set up the then unknown ‘St Ermin’s Group’, after the Social Democratic party defections, to bring the Labour party back to electability from its wayward hard-left path which he knew was losing the support of his own members." [2]

Seumas Milne's book The Enemy Within notes:

"New evidence has emerged since 1984 to highlight how covert state-sponsored action against the left in the NUM and other unions went far beyond the operations of the official security. Cabinet papers released in 1995 reveal that in the early 1960s the Conservative government authorized a secret payment of £40,000 - around £650,000 in 2004 prices - to a semi-clandestine anti-communist trade-union organization known as the Industrial Research and Information Service or 'IRIS'. The money was allocated from the 'secret vote', the intelligence services budget, on the orders of the then Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, with the aim of stemming the advance of the left in the labour movement and 'inspiring' media stories culled from 'secret sources'. The government funding, agreed after an approach from a former Labour minister, Lord Shawcross, was matched by large private companies like Ford and Shell. It was used to hire full-time 'undercover' IRIS organizers in the NUM, the Amalgamatef Engineering Union (AUE) and elsewhere to defeat left-wing candidates for union positions and build 'anti-communist cells'...
"More than twenty years later, several right-wing trade-union leaders involved with IRIS would play key roles in the 1984-5 miners' strike. Among them was Bill Sirs, then general secretary of the steelworkers' union, the ISTC, who joined the IRIS board in January 1984 and went on to chair the organization.... Sirs was a member of the TUC general council at the time, while Ken Cure of the AEU, another IRIS director, sat on the Labour Party national executive throughout the year-long stoppage...Another IRIS director from 1988 was Sir Jack Smart, former NUM official and Labour leader of Wakefield council and the Association of Metropolitican Authorities." (pp.386-7)

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