40th Anniversay of Lee Jeans Sit-In

40th Anniversary of Lee Jeans Sit In

On the 5 February 1981, there was a meeting with management and shop stewards about moving equipment from the Lee Jeans factory in Larkfield, Greenock to Northern Ireland.

This meeting sparked fears that the factory would close, so the workforce mainly made up of women decided that a sit-in would be staged. 

That evening 240 staff members barricaded themselves into the factory hoping it would be only for a few days while negotiations took place. 

The sit-in lasted for seven months.

The workers soon realised that they had not planned this so it was decided that two people would sneak out to help feed the staff inside the factory.  They climbed out a skylight and down a drainpipe and returned with 240 fish suppers from Aldo’s fish and chip shop which he personally helped deliver.

Word of what was happening spread quickly around the area and to show support, the workers in the nearby shipyards all donated money, food and other supplies to help support the Lee Jeans workforce stay in the factory and support their families. 

They even downed their own tools on 30 April to attend a rally at the factory, as it was supposed to be the date of redundancy deals and them being forcibly removed from the factory.

The workforce remained in place.

The news hit all the national and local press and even reached Westminster. The factory was visited by Labour Leader Michael Foot, MP and Tony Benn MP.

The workforce remained in place to ensure the factory and machines where cleaned, maintained and well looked after and they were finally rewarded in August 1981, with three former managers buying-out the firm and saving all 240 jobs.

A celebratory dance was held in Greenock Town Hall.

Now, 40 years later Inverclyde Council plan on marking the anniversary.

If you or someone you know were involved in the Lee Jeans factory sit-in, let us know.  We are planning to mark the anniversary when covid restrictions allow.

Email us with your full contact details so that we can get in touch with you: events@inverclyde.gov.uk