Int'l Solidarity Strike for Liverpool

scott figgins (
Tue, 14 Jan 1997 11:35:18 -0800


/* Written 12:36 AM Jan 11, 1997 by gn:chrisbailey in igc:labr.maritime */ /* ---------- "Dockers' Day of Action set to blow" ---------- */ From: "LabourNet" <chrisbailey>

Set to Blow

What began as a speck on the horizon now looks like Typhoon "Liverpool" as unions spanning the Pacific and Atlantic trade routes prepare for world-wide industrial action against privatisation, casualisation, and the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company beginning on 20 January.

Ports and unions in Japan, Australia, New Zealand, the US West Coast, Canada, Sweden, Denmark, Italy, Spain, Holland, Cyprus, Germany are in motion, and news is expected from France, Belgium, Portugal, and the US East Coast. The tide was already running strong when, on 10 January the dockers weekly mass meeting received a fax from the International Transportworkers Federation. Gen Sec David Cockroft and Dockers' Section Sec Kees Marges had just written "requesting all ITF dockworkers affiliates:

1) To take whatever steps are open to you, including public demonstrations and, if possible, direct action aimed at ships currently using the port facilities in Liverpool affected by the dispute during the week commencing 20 January;

2) To send further messages to the management and to the shop stewards indicating that the action is taken in support of the successful conclusion of the negotiating process already under way."

The day before the ITF move, the TGWU Finance & General Purposes Committee (F&GP) decided not to impose the secret ballot demanded by Mersey Docks as a condition of their "ultimate offer". The ballot was widely canvassed in the media by TGWU Gen Sec Bill Morris and Peter Kilfoyle, the Labour MP for Bootle (adjoining the north docks area), ever since the offer officially expired on New Year's Eve. And without reference to Liverpool the "Financial Times" reported (7 Jan) that the Labour leadership, despite dissension within the Shadow Cabinet, favours compulsory reballoting in long-running industrial disputes.

But in the event the F&GP evidently accepted that it would not be in the union's best interest to force a secret ballot at this point, given its overwhelming rejection by the dockers themselves. Whatever manoeuvres lie ahead for the TGWU and ITF, the storm and its far-reaching consequences cannot now be averted. As of 10 January, the stewards had received firm commitments from:

Japan: The 40,000 strong National Council of Dockworkers Unions (Zenkoku Kowan) will stand "in solidarity with Liverpool while fighting deregulation in Japan", and will hold workshop meetings on 20 Jan at all 50 ports it organises; release a press statement and write to Mersey Docks and assorted shipping companies.

Australia: While the national position is yet to be decided, in Sydney the Maritime Union of Australia plans a "big hit" on a ship with Liverpool connections.

New Zealand: NZ Seafarers Union intend action around 20 Jan.

US West Coast: all 18 ILWU ports have been contacted directly by Liverpool stewards and are indicating support. A mass meeting in Los Angeles, the world's 3rd largest port, has voted for a 24 hour stoppage on 20 Jan. The San Francisco stewards council has agreed a 24 hour stoppage; their position will be put to the longshoremen this weekend. Portland will hold their monthly stop-work meeting for 24 hours on 20 Jan. Seattle, awaiting decisions in the other ports, is now expected to follow suit.

Sweden: The Hamnarbetarforbundet has given notice to the employers in Gothenburg, Stockholm, Malmo, and Helsinborg of their intention to boycott all ACL and CAST cargo on 21 Jan.

Denmark: Mass meetings will be held on 20 Jan in Arhus, Copenhagen, and Odense. Last September, similar mass meetings decided to go home for the day.

Holland: A message of support re 20 Jan has been received from the OVB, and the FNV has asked Liverpool for a list of ships and shipping companies due in Rotterdam that week.

Germany: Unconfirmed reports that the rank and file in Bremerhaven and Hamburg intend a day's stoppage.

A number of other unions will meet next week to discuss possible action around 20 Jan:

Canada: 1000 Montreal longshoremen organised by the Syndicat des Debardeurs will meet early next week to discuss supportive action.

Italy: A mass meeting on 13 Jan of all dockers in Genoa organised by the FILT and CGIL.

Spain: The Coordinadora Executive will meet on 15 Jan, with a view to action probably later than 20 Jan.

Portugal: Lisbon shop stewards are to meet the Gen Sec of the National Federation of Portworkers Unions.

Cyprus: Stewards are awaiting a decision.

Beyond this ever growing list of unions known to be contemplating action, the Liverpool stewards are hopeful of support from the CGT in Le Havre in the wake of their previous solidarity. They have also written to Bob Baete, Nat. Sec. of the BTB Port Section, requesting industrial action against ACL in Antwerp and CAST in Zeebrugge in the week of 20 Jan. Finally, the stewards ask that ILA longshoremen on the US East Coast might choose 20 January, celebrated as Martin Luther King's birthday, as a fitting moment to join dockers around the world in their common fight against injustice.

LabourNet report by Greg Dropkin

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