(en) ++ Liverpool Dockers

Freedom Press (freedom@tao.ca)
Sun, 22 Jun 1997 18:53:36 +0000

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FREEDOM PRESS INTERNATIONAL --------------------------- 84B, WHITECHAPEL HIGH STREET, LONDON E1 7QX UK ---------------------------- sample edition of FREEDOM on request from London --------------------------- Extracts from FREEDOM 21st June 1997


The agenda of last week's dockers' conference in Montreal quite rightly in the main was taken up with the Liverpool struggle, with a clear view of all delegates in attendance that on-going international activity would have to be put in place as soon as possible to ensure the Liverpool dockers are reinstated.

What we started in Liverpool 21 months ago, when we decided to go international and undermine the economic base of the Mersey Docks & Harbour Company, and what followed in the international conference in Liverpool in February 1996 we are now on the verge of developing into what could be the most important dockworkers' movement for all dockworkers the world over, and especially for the situation in Liverpool.

For once we are in a position to hit the dock company so we don't want the union to cut across this with a shoddy deal to sabotage the international movement. We don't want a shoddy compromise which will not see Liverpool dockers reinstated into all areas of the port.

It is the belief of the three delegates (Terry Teague, Jim Nolan and Mike Carden) that there is now a real rank-and-file movement in place which will challenge the policies of the ship-owners and the port employers: privatisation, casualisation and deregulation.

Based on what we saw and heard last week, it will be a movement prepared to take industrial action to defend all dockworkers currently under attack whether they be in Liverpool, Santos, Amsterdam or Australia. All these dockworkers find themselves under industrial and political attacks similar to the one faced by the Liverpool dockworkers 21 months ago. The strong view of the majority of delegates was that the international dockworkers' movement is clearly a movement for the future, and they want to make sure that the Liverpool dockworkers are part of that future.

The view was expressed that if the Liverpool dispute is lost then the whole international initiative will be lost. However, the Liverpool delegates did not take this view - they said that whatever happened to the Liverpool dispute, the international movement was something new and would develop. The actual success of the Montreal conference can only be determined when we see how successful the actions decided have been.

Jimmy Nolan said that it was his belief that we are on the verge of something big - not just for the reinstatement of the Liverpool dockers, but for dockworkers all over the world. This is the first time that we have seen a body of dockers all over the world, both ITF (International Transport Workers' Federation) and non-ITF, for a common goal. The actual organisation of the conference was marvellous. This was due to the work of Michel Murray and the longshoremen of Montreal. (There was simultaneous translation, and the whole of the proceedings were recorded on big-screen. There was a back-up team. Copies of the resolutions in different languages almost as soon as they were carried, and they were sent out on the e-mail within minutes.) We owe Michel Murray and the longshoremen of Montreal a special debt of gratitude.

Almost the entire conference was given over to the Liverpool dockers. The attendance was 54 delegates from five continents, 17 countries and 27 ports. Old stalwarts from the first conference, like Ole Muller, Pat Riley and Bjorn Borg, were there. They never flinched from the decisions of that first conference in February 1996. Jim Donovan from Australia was not able to be present because of a prior engagement, but he sent a strong message. Apart from the Liverpool delegates - shop stewards, the other delegations were leaders of big unions the ILA and ILWU, Montreal (and they all had a clear mandate that they could commit themselves to resolutions, especially in support of Liverpool) - the French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese delegates caucused to see how best they could affect the Liverpool trade in Europe. The general secretary of the National Council of Portworkers Unions of Japan was there (35 ports); Marvin Mfundisi, vice president of the TGWU South Africa (in charge of dockworkers); Vladirnir Vasiliev, president of the All Russian Dockworkers' Union representing 23 ports in Russia and the Baltic; from Spain was the general secretary of the federation of all the dockers' unions, Julian Garcia Gonzalez, representing 32 ports; for the first time the Dutch dockworkers were represented from the powerful FNV union in Amsterdam. The Dutch dockers are struggling against deregulation and privatisation in their ports - the employers want to shed 200 jobs and make 300 dockers casual.

The debate covered all aspects of dock work, especially the problems of privatisation, casualisation and deregulation, but Liverpool was the main issue and central to the whole conference. On the second day the three delegates from Liverpool were able to give a full oral presentation of the history and the up-to-date situation, making the point also that it was not just from the three that were present but all those who had taken part in the movement to build this international initiative. They had now become friends with many dockers all over the world. We especially spoke of the power of the Ken Loach film The Flickering Flame.

Julian Garcia Gonzalez spoke of the history of the international movement. He had studied the way things were going in the world. There are five or six major shipping consortiums and they dictate to governments what policies they want to operate in the ports. He said that there was a socialist government in Spain and, up to its election, it had strong links with the dockers' unions and others, but it cannot decide its own policy in the ports as that is determined by the shipping consortiums. The Liverpool delegation explained that in the 21 months there had been many highs and lows, including the death of the second picket in the last week. The hardship fund is at its lowest level ever, but it is the desire of all dockworkers and their families and supporters to continue to fight for reinstatement and achieve a just settlement.

The role of the ITF was discussed. They had refused to attend the conference. They still consider the conference represented a counter-organisation to the ITF itself. The debate was along the lines that the ITF can say what they like but, even leaving the Liverpool situation aside, they have done nothing for dockworkers. The Flag of Conscience campaign for seafarers is good, but they have done nothing similar for the dockers. If they had agreed to work with and co-ordinate on behalf of the Liverpool dockworkers, then there would not have been the need to set up the present international movement.

A small committee was elected to meet the ITF in Miami on 9-lOth June. The delegation is Jim Nolan and Terry Teague from Liverpool, Michel Murray from Montreal, Jim Donovan (or a representative from New Zealand if he cannot go) from Oceania, Yoshi Kakamura from Japan, Norman Parks from the US and Marvin Mfundisi from Africa.

It was decided that the next conference will be in Liverpool, because the delegates were strongly of the opinion that it will be a celebration of our reinstatements and a signal to start the fight-back the world over.

information from Hull Syndicalists


The central organisation of Sweden's workers, SAC, has decided to send 250,000 sv.crowns (f25,000) to the fighting dockers in Liverpool.

The decision was made by the SAC's central committee when it became known that a number of families risk eviction from their homes. The proposal to send money was made by Botkyrka and Skarholmens local federations of the SAC.

"This is a good initiative", says Sharokh Razavi from the Liverpool Dockers Support Committee. "I hope that more unions join up. The dockers need our support. The anti-union policy implemented in England is on its way here. A victory for the Liverpool dockers is a victory for all organised workers in Europe."

The Liverpool dockers have previously received support from both the SAC syndicalists and Swedish harbour workers' union. "We shall inform the LO [socialdemocrat] of our decision", says Jan Berglund, the SAC's general secretary. "Hopefully the socialdemocratic LO will show their solidarity and support for their union brothers in England".

The Liverpool dockers are organised in the TGWU, the British LO. "The attacks on workers and their organisations is becoming commonplace in Europe", says Kieran Casey, the SAC's international secretary. "In England we can now see the pattern since the start of the Liverpool conflict, Magnet factory workers, Hillingdon, and more. In Belgium the Renault move has openly flaunted present day legislation and in Sweden the Eriksson and SAAB-Aero move of profitable production has devastated communities. Behind the slogans of flexibility and competition is the face of raw capitalism devoid of any social responsibility. The uncontrolled globalisation of the economy and the moves toward a European monetary union are leading to nothing less than a capitalist dictatorship. It is in this perspective that support for the Liverpool dockers is necessary. They are on the front-line in the struggle between the haves and the have-nots, between those who make decisions which affect others' lives and those who have no say whatsoever."

The Liverpool dockers' fighting spirit, solidarity and show of mutual aid is an inspiration to all workers in the struggle against injustice and the whims of the bosses. In all our meetings with our Liverpool comrades we are struck by their honesty and integrity. They have maintained their dignity and have won the respect of groups - and unified previously disparate groups - such as environmental activists, the unemployed and wage-earners in the fight against the barbarism of capitalism.

The SAC are negotiating a campaign called 'One Hour for Liverpool'. The goal is that each member should donate f5 in support. We hope to broaden the appeal to encompass all trade unions and political organisation. The SAC hereby appeals to all friends to raise the issue of the Liverpool conflict and to give moral support and financial aid to the dockers, to organise protests and blockades against the harbour company and those who use the harbour facilities and to protest against the British government and its institutions.

Contact the dockers at: Port Shop Stewards Committee, Transport House, Islington, L3 8EQ, Liverpool, England.

Contact the SAC at: SAC-Syndikalisterna, Sveriges Arbetares Centralorganisation, Box 6507 113 83, Stockholm, Sweden.

informaffon from Kieran Casey International Secretary of the SAC

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