(en)Dock's International Action Reports

Fri, 24 Jan 1997 13:54:32 GMT

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Below are reports from around the world of the action by dockers and others in support of the sacked Liverpool dockers that took place on January the 20th. In my opinion this action is important because if workers are to resist the power of capital they will have to organise as capital does - across national boundaries. It seems to me the dockers are breaking new ground in this sense. And anyway - they deserve support. Information on how to help at the end....

will brown...bristol usual disclaimer

The Mersey Bubble Set to Burst

Around 80 ports in 15 countries are now expected to take part in this week's industrial action targetting Mersey Docks and Harbour Company, shipping lines calling in Liverpool, and the threats of casual labour, privatisation, and deregulation affecting port industries world-wide.

Pledges arriving in the sacked Liverpool dockers' office spell trouble for Mersey Docks' customers ACL, Cast, CanMar, and Zim Line while other major shipping consortia face delays on both sides of the Pacific.

International coordinator Terry Teague sees this week as the climax of 14 months work involving every man and woman in the dispute, since the decision to seek a global blockade was taken in November 1995, two months after nearly 500 men were sacked for honouring a picket line. Liverpool dockers have flown to stand at dock gates, occupy cranes and address rank and file dockers and union officials in 62 ports while over 100 international delegates have attended mass meetings and conferences or joined the picket line in Liverpool. Their direct contact with sacked dockers and Women of the Waterfront has unlocked the coordinated industrial action now backed by the International Transportworkers Federation.

Currently, action is imminent in 15 countries. Faxes and phone calls will deluge Mersey Docks and assorted shipping lines, and work will stop in around 80 ports.

Australia: although the new Liberal Government has singled out the Maritime Union of Australia which also has its own battle against privatisation by shipping line P&O, the MUA intends to hit the "Zim Australia" in Sydney this week in view of Zim Line's continuing use of Liverpool.

New Zealand: Seafarers will target Zim Line while wharfies (longshoremen) in Auckland have designated Monday 20/1 as their "picnic day" despite legal threats from the employers.

Japan: The 40,000 strong National Council of Dockworkers Unions (Zenkoku Kowan) will hold workshop meetings on 20/1 at all 50 ports it organises. In 6 ports the meetings are expected to last all morning. Major shipping consortia including OOCL, Evergreen NYK, and P&O will be affected.

US West Coast: A demonstration outside the British Consulate in San Francisco was held on Friday 17/1 including the Labour Council, Union Pacific railroad workers, International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union, and GCIU. The Consul General Mr. Malcom Dougal apparently claimed the UK Government had "no ownership" of Mersey Docks and Harbour Company, despite the Government's 14% shareholding. 10 ports organised by the ILWU will act, with 24 hour stoppages due in the key ports of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and Portland on 20/1. The "American President" line is threatening legal action, claiming damages of $3,000--4,000 per hour's delay on each vessel.

Quebec: A mass meeting of 1,000 longshoremen is planned to begin 8am Monday, organised by the Syndicat des Debardeurs.

Canada: In St. John, New Brunswick, members of the International Longshoremen's Association local 273 will shut the port for 24 hours on Monday.

US East coast: The International Longshoremen's Association is organising a major demo at the British Embassy in Washington. Rank and file longshoremen may honour Martin Luther King's birthday by staying off work Monday.

Sweden: All ACL and CAST cargo will be stopped for 24 hours on Tuesday 21/1 in Gothenburg, Helsingborg, Malmo, and Stockholm.

Denmark: Mass meetings will be held in Arhus, Copenhagen, and Odense on 20/1.by the Danish General Workers Union

Belgium: The "Atlantic Compass" (ACL) was delayed 7 hours on 16/1 as the entire night shift, including ancillary workers, boycotted the ship which calls in Liverpool on a regular run. Dockers from the BTB and CVD unions will demonstrate at the British Embassy in Brussels on 20/1, and industrial action is anticipated in Zeebrugge and Ghent.

Netherlands: Stop work meetings will be held by the FNV in Rotterdam and Amsterdam, while industrial action by the OVB in Rotterdam is expected later this week.

Germany: Stop work meetings will be held by the OTV in Hamburg and Bremerhaven, where the rank and file are said to be ready to act against any CanMar or ACL vessels.

France: A OOCL vessel involved in a slot-share arrangement with Liverpool is to be delayed 8 hours in Le Havre by the CGT from 11pm Sunday 19/1. Liverpool dockers Jim Nolan and Bobby Morton are travelling to Paris and the south of France 20/1 and will meet both CGT and FO dockers.

Portugal: Mass meetings were due to be held 19/1 in Lisbon and Leixoes with a view to action later in the week.

Spain: The Coordinadora is currently constrained by the unfinished renegotiation of their national agreement, but will seek industrial action in future.

Italy: The workers' cooperative in Genoa will hold a mass meeting 20/1 with a view to action later this week. Approaches are also being made to the private terminal servicing CAST/CanMar. Both FILT and CGIL unions are involved.

Cyprus: Zim Line will be targetted in Limassol later this week by the Federation of Transport, Petrol and Agricultural Workers.

It is hard to see how shipping lines facing this scale of disruption can fail to call an end to Mersey Docks' great gamble.

LabourNet Report by Greg Dropkin


Subj: Dockers' Day of Action - First Report

23-JAN-1997 15:38:14.91

The international day of action dawned in Liverpool as a group of 16 sacked dockers and their supporters passed through port security and occupied 3 cranes at the grain terminal, halting unloading of the "Lake Erie" grain carrier.

At one point a few scabs entered the crane to confiscate property, but their invasion fizzled out and as of Monday night the dockers intended to stay up for 24 hours.

Down on the ground a mass picket of dockers and Women of the Waterfront gathered at 6am, cheering the occupation and chanting at the scabs. No container vessels were in port. The picket included a delegations from the victorious occupation of Scottish engineering factory Glacier RPB, where 103 workers had been sacked in November and won reinstatement earlier this month, and the Darlington kitchen equipment firm Magnet, where TGWU workers remain sacked after beginning an official pay strike last year.

During the morning faxes arriving at the stewards office were delivered to the picket line. A torrent of solidarity messages, letters to Mersey Docks or British Embassies and Consulates, and press reports had flooded in. Now dockers crowded round to hear the news.

At the Danish port of Arhus, a mass meeting on Monday morning voted 53-21 in a secret ballot for a 24 hour sympathy strike plus 3500 pounds stirling donation to Liverpool.

Lloyd's List New York correspondent quoted a statement by members of the International Longshoremen's Association in New Jersey, Baltimore, and Hampton Roads who "intend to honour the request for a boycott" of vessels still calling in Liverpool, describing the action as "a fitting tribute to Martin Luther King" whose birthday is celebrated on 20 January. ILA official spokesman Jim McNamara told Lloyd's List he believed the boycott would be observed at all ILA ports on the east and Gulf coasts.

The Canadian port of St. John, New Brunswick, shut down from 8am to 7pm Monday and will send $5,000 to Liverpool.

Longshoremen, checkers and railway workers in the Port of Montreal held their first ever joint meeting on Sunday 19/1, bringing together SCFP Local 375 and ILA Local 1675 along with the Syndicat des Debardeurs. Liverpool steward Mike Carden addressed the meeting in French by telephone.

Belgian dockers, fresh from last week's boycott of the "Atlantic Compass", were heading off to demonstrate at the British Embassy in Brussels and preparing further industrial action later this week. They were overwhelmed by the scale of international support.

In Sweden, with the Hamnarbetarforbundet due to hit all ACL and CAST container traffic on Tuesday, the syndicalist SAC union in Malmo demonstrated at the ACL offices in Stockholm on Monday.

The "Swiss Revolutionary Reconstruction" occupied the headquarters of the Rhine Shipping Company in solidarity with the dockers and Women of the Waterfront, in Basel on Monday. Other messages of support and protest letters to Mersey Docks or the British Government turned up from

Hava-Is, the civil aviation sector union in Turkey

ZCTU, the Zimbabwean Congress of Trade Unions

CNT Transport in Brazil

OTV, the transport and public service union in Germany

Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, the Federation of Hong Kong Transport Worker Organisations, the Asian Domestic Workers Union, the Hong Kong Christian Industrial Committee

Union des Syndicats du Canton de Geneve in Switzerland

Zenkoku Kowan, the National Council of Dockworkers Unions in Japan

National Federation of Sales Representatives Unions in Bombay

SEV-VPT Public Transport Conductors in Lausanne

Solidarnost in Kaliningrad, Russia and many other political and human rights organisations and individuals.

As yet, we await confirmation of other industrial actions expected to take place Monday. But CNN in San Francisco has just phoned Labournet seeking Liverpool video footage for tonight's coverage of the ILWU longshoremen's solidarity stoppage, which took place as planned.

LabourNet Report by Greg Dropkin


donations to:

Bro. J. Davies, Merseyside Port Shop Stewards 19 Scorton Street Liverpool L6 4AS

Donations made payable to: Merseyside Dockers Shop Stewards Appeal fund.


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