Southern Bert

Bert Southern

In the late 1950s, the Liverpudlian, Bert Southern moved to the Black Country town of Rowley Regis, now part of the borough of Sandwell in the West Midlands.

Being unemployed, he had accepted a place on a scheme that sought to assist deprived areas by offering relocation to industries that were short of labour and which threw in accommodation as well as a job. But the work only provided poor pay and conditions and the accommodation was conditional upon staying in the job; it was tantamount to being an industrial tied cottage. Undaunted, Bert immediately organised fellow Liverpool workers in the firm he had been sent to in Rowley to fight against this system and the low pay and conditions.

The breakthrough came when the firm realised that they had a fight on their hands. Bert exposed the right-wing shop steward, who lost his temper and turned the conflict physical. With the row having turned into fisticuffs but, being a Liverpudlian, Bert simply threw the useless threw him in the canal.

This campaign to end the tied accommodation system was a complete success, with the local Council being embarrassed at the resultant publicity. The threat of eviction and of dismissal faded away for most of the workers but Bert now found himself with a job and shunned by all local employers.

He was saved by an offer to become the circulation representative for the journal `Soviet Weekly’, which was a commercial Novosti Press outlet in Britain for news from the Soviet Union. Bert proved to be quite a success in this role, becoming widely known amongst labour and trade union activists. However, Bert Southern died at the relatively young age of 58.





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