Grunwick Timeline

The Grunwick time line shows the chronology of events at the Grunwick photo processing plant in North West London. It covers the establishment of the factory by owner George Ward, and the events that led to the walk out by workers and the strike that lasted for three years from August 1976 until July 1978. It shows how the strikers, under the leadership of Jayaben Desai fought for the right to organise trade unions at their workplace, and for better conditions and pay.  It also shows how support form other trade unions reach a pinnacle in the mass pickets of 1977only to be reversed as the TUC and some union leaders decided that the strikers demands could not be achieved.  sufficient. This information is based on Graham Taylor (1978) Grunwick: the Workers’ Story:  Lawrence & Wishart  ,  London, as well as from the personal testimonies of the strikers and archival records. See also for a fuller version of this time line.

  • 1965

    March:  Grunwick FilmProcessing Laboratories  established by George Ward with Tony Grundy and John Hickey.  Ward  is the Chairman and the chief spokesperson. 

  • 1969

    Jayaben Desai (the future leader of the strike) and family join her husband from Bombay, having left Tanzania in 1964.   

  • 1972

    Grunwick moved to Cobbald Road, in Willesden London NW10.

  • 1973

    First dispute for union recognition at Grunwick (some workers who had joined the Transport and General Workers Union (TGWU) were made redundant.

  • 1974

    Jayaben Desai starts working at Grunwick. 

  • 1975

    Grunwick leases additional  premises at Chapter Road (Dollis Hill) , London NW2  from Brent Council

  • August 1976

    20 August: Devshi Bhudia is sacked and three other young men walk out of Grunwick mail order department in Chapter Road in protest.

    Jayaben Desai and son Sunil walk out in protest at unacceptable treatment by management.

    23 August: Other workers join the Desais on the picket line.

    Sunil Desai goes to the Citizen’s Advice Bureau to find a Trade Union. Speaks to the TUC who advise him to join APEX.
    At about 3pm, 50+ workers walk out of Grunwick Chapter Road plant, demanding the right to join a trade union. They march to Cobblald Road where about 25 other workers join the strike.  

    24 August: Jack Dromey, Secretary of Brent Trades Council meets strikers at 11 am.  Organises a meeting at Trades Hall in the evening, where the election of a strike committee takes place.  APEX (The Association of Professional, Executive, Clerical and Computer Staffs) recruits over 60 new union members. Management offers reinstatement if union representation is dropped; workers stay out.

    31 August: APEX declares the strike official; ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) offers mediation; Grunwick management refuses.

  • January 1977

    27 January: Grunwick strikers picket chemist shops (where the mail order photographs were despatched and received).

  • May 1978

    14 May: National conference in Wembley called by the strikers.

    15 May: George Ward, the Managing Director of Grunwick rejects the ACAS proposal for workforce ballot.