Geoffrey Shears, Vice-President of the Centre for Labour and Social Studies (CLASS) and Treasurer of the Institute of Employment Rights, is interviewed by journalist Erem Kansoy.
Shears read Law at the London School of Economics and took an MA in Industrial Relations at the University of Warwick. He was politicised by the campaign against the Vietnam War, and other developments of the late 60s. In 1971, he joined Thompsons, a radical national law firm committed to the trade union movement, as a solicitor, and eventually led the firm as CEO and then Executive Chair. While at Thompsons, he alongside many trade union friends worked for various causes in Latin America, and significantly with Cuba Solidarity Campaign, not least on the successful struggle to secure the release from US prisons of the Cuban 5. He and his law firm also had international commitments in South Africa, where they succeeded in securing compensation for many thousands of migrant workers afflicted by diseases caused by exposure to asbestos.
In 2009, he retired from practicing law and, with the support of a number of unions, set up and led the Union Solidarity International, an online campaign platform for trade unionists around the world, which in 2019 became part of the global union IndustriALL. He remains active in various campaigns in Britain, and serves as Treasurer of the Institute of Employment Rights, and as Vice-President of the Centre for Labour and Social Studies (CLASS).
He became involved with the Kurdish cause, and in particular the Freedom for Ocalan Campaign, through his trade union friends, in particular Simon Dubbins (Unite International Officer), Doug Nicholls (GFTU General Secretary), and Bert Schouwenburg (former GMB International Officer), as well as Ibrahim Dogus, with whom he achieved the Campaign’s link with the Durham Miners Gala, who dedicated their 2018 festival to the Freedom for Ocalan Campaign. He states, “I have since met many wise comrades who know far more than I about this struggle. Nonetheless, I have been inspired to do what I can, along with our friends, to encourage progress.”
The interview was prepared with the support of the Freedom for Ocalan Campaign and the Peace in Kurdistan campaign in collaboration with Medya Haber TV and Sterk TV.