International Longshore 1-Day Strike

figgins@dnai.com
Tue, 17 Dec 1996 08:58:20 -0800


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International dockers 24 hr strike called

A worldwide storm is set to break over the Mersey Docks and Harbour
Company in just six weeks, with a 24-hour international shut-down of the
docks industry now planned for 20 January.

The action will be both a coordinated show of solidarity with locked-out
Liverpool dockers and their families, an attack on shipping lines which
allow scabs to service their vessels or handle their containers, and a
demonstration that dockers throughout the world are taking up the fight
against casual labour, deregulation, and privatisation.

At least fifteen different dockers' unions and the International Transport
Workers' Federation are stating support for the plan. The International
Longshoremen and Warehousemen's Union on the North American West Coast
have taken a lead; last week their International Executive Board moved a
24-hour blockade in all ILWU-organised ports and this decision reflects
the huge groundswell within ILWU locals.

Liverpool dockers are also welcoming the new ITF position, which calls on
"affiliated organisations to undertake all possible legal trade union
strategies to put pressure on the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company and on
shipping firms carrying cargoes that have been loaded by strike-breakers
in Liverpool".

These words will be tested in the North European ports of Antwerp,
Rotterdam, Bremerhaven and Hamburg, which hold the key to trans-atlantic
shipping lines ACL, CAST and CanMar, connecting North America with
Liverpool and Europe. While Swedish dockers have hit ACL for twelve hours
every week since the summer, Danish dockers struck in solidarity with
Liverpool in October, Le Havre held up an OOCL vessel for sixteen hours
and hosted the recent international dockers' meeting, and the German OTV
union Congress resolved to put industrial pressure on Mersey Docks and
shipping lines calling at Liverpool, attempts to engage the Belgian and
Dutch ports in solidarity action have yet to bear fruit.

When ACL pulled out from Liverpool for four weeks last summer, Mersey
Docks was in a panic. Now, despite their poor share price and
increasingly bad press, the company continues to put on a brave face. If
ACL, CAST, CanMar, ZIM, Andrew Weir, or Gracechurch were to pull out now,
MDHC would be back behind the eight ball. But that can only happen when
shipping lines discover they are all in trouble half way round the world
after calling in a scab port.

Fifteen months into the lock-out, Mersey Docks thought Liverpool dockers
and their families were looking for any way out and would grab the latest
offer of 41 ancillary jobs and UKp25,000 severance in the run-up to
Christmas. But in fact, as one rank and file docker put it last week, "I
find I'm getting stronger and more determined to win this, to make sure
that we go back. I will admit that I do get disillusioned at times,
especially when I go down the picket line and see three ships there. I
say to myself, 'is this working, this international set up?' And I think
everybody must ask themselves that question.

But when you go round the country and see the commitment that people have
for you, you owe it to them as well to win a victory, not only for
ourselves but for other trade unionists. In Sweden, the dockers took me
down and showed me the ACL coming in, took a note of the time, and took me
back the next day and said, 'there is the ACL line there, no work being
carried out and it won't start until twelve hours after it docked'.

So I have seen it in operation, and I think it is tremendous that anybody
can give that support to somebody in another country, and I only hope that
we will be able to return the favour to those people that supported us.

I want to see the scabs out of the port, and I want to see the men back
that want to go back, and I want to see the union back in there calling
the shots, and let's have decent conditions. That's what I want to see in
the port of Liverpool."

Please fax messages of support and pledges of industrial action to (+44)
151-207 0696 and copy them by email to LabourNet <chrisbailey@gn.apc.org>

LabourNet report by Greg Dropkin

Full coverage of Mersey docks dispute including article by John Pilger is
on the LabourNet web site http://www.labournet.org.uk