(en) Liverpool dockers fight on

Dr Groove (dr_groove@geocities.com)
Mon, 30 Jun 1997 11:18:30 +0000


A AA AAAA The A-Infos News Service AA AA AA AA INFOSINFOSINFOS http://www.tao.ca/ainfos/ AAAA AAAA AAAAA AAAAA

This article is from the Irish Anarchist Paper =

Workers Solidarity, No 51 Summer 1997 http://www.geocities.com/Athens/2724/anpubdx.html

After one and a half years Liverpool dockers fight on

On September 25th 1995 the men who worked for Torside =

Shipping Company (a private contractor) were ordered to work =

for a disputed overtime rate. They refused. The following day all =

80 men were sacked. They mounted a picket and the Mersey =

dockers refused to pass it. The 329 men of Mersey Docks and =

Harbour Company were sacked. Within 24 hours their jobs were =

being advertised in the local press.

Since then precious little else has been seen in media about this =

strike which is now longer running than the miners' struggle in =

1984. Indeed it took Robbie Fowler to lift his football shirt and =

reveal a t-shirt supporting the dockers during a European football =

game, and a minor riot in London, for the dispute to gain access =

to the headlines again.

In September 1995 the dockers of Liverpool had handled the =

highest tonnages ever recorded in that port. Since 1989, the =

European Regional Development Fund has paid over =A313 =

million to Mersey Docks to create employment. The irony is that =

all they've succeeded in doing is locking 400 men out of work. =

Yet the Managing Director of Mersey Docks pocketed an =A387,000 =

pay rise just prior to kicking 329 men onto the dole.

The dockers are members of the Transport and General Workers =

Union, which has refused to make the dispute official because the =

dockers' actions were against the law (the stringent laws brought =

in by Thatcher to strangle the remaining power out of the right to =

strike). As John Magginnis, who has worked on the docks since =

1951, put it "We worked in dirty, unhealthy, dangerous =

conditions.

But if the men had a grievance and sent for a delegate (trade =

union representative), he would walk round the sheds, straight =

into the office, come out, walk past the men without saying a =

word and you would find out later that nothing had changed. A =

case of "My hands are tied. What can I do?"

The striking dockers were offered =A325,000 redundancy and 40 jobs =

as a settlement offer. It was rejected. As Jimmy Campbell said, =

"Our fathers and grand-fathers fought and died for jobs we could =

be proud of, I did it for the young ones."

The strike has gone on to bring forth an international show of =

solidarity with the struggle of these men to hold onto their jobs =

in an age of increasing globalisation and rationalisation. The =

international support has been nothing short of phenomenal.

On January the 20th an inter-national day of action took place =

around the world for the dockers. In Liverpool eight dockers and =

seven environmentalists occupied three cranes at the grain =

terminal and thus prevented the unloading of the "Lake Erie" =

which was delayed for a total of 35 hours. The activists were =

arrested and charged with aggravated trespass.

Actions occurred in Australia, New Zealand, Japan,the United =

States, Mexico, Brazil, Canada, Quebec, Sweden, Norway, Russia, =

Denmark, Holland, Belgium, Germany, France, Switzerland and =

Greece. These actions ranged from union meetings during =

working hours to stoppages to occupations, and even a general =

strike of transport workers. On the west coast of the United States, =

the Los Angeles Times reported:

"Pacific rim trade spluttered to a halt and dozens of mammoth =

cargo ships sat idle in their ports on Monday as union dock =

workers from Los Angeles to Seattle stayed off the job in a one =

day show of support for the striking longshoremen in Liverpool, =

England....." One vice president of a shipping company =

complained that "This is going to cost us millions of dollars in =

delays.'

What the workers throughout the world who have heard of this =

strike realise is that it is not an isolated issue. At stake here are =

the 400 jobs in Liverpool, but these men are also fighting for the =

right to decent pay and proper working conditions. For many =

years, dock work was some of the most brutal work, and was =

conducted in the uncertain air of casualisation.

Now the bosses are trying to return to this time and the workers =

are resisting. This tactic of the bosses is not confined to one port =

or one workplace but it is rearing it's ugly head in practically all =

places where people gather to work. It has to be fought before we =

all end up working on weekly contracts with no rights or =

privileges.

Despite the widespread international actions, the media in =

Britain have kept this long-running dispute almost completely =

out of the news. Marchers took to the streets of London on April =

12th to focus the attention of the public and the politicians on the =

Liverpool dockers. The Social Justice March attracted 15,000 =

marchers and over 1,000 riot police who did not hesitate to smash =

them off the streets.

The march was divided into two parts by a police charge on =

horseback. Some protesters managed to get into the Foreign =

Office and scattered papers from an upstairs window. As usual =

the media stepped in to cover the story in their usual biased way, =

not covering the reasons for the events and turning a blind eye to =

the police brutality.

Now, once again the story has sunk into oblivion. The situation =

is not going to change with a change in government, as the =

Labour Party spokesperson on Industry considers the strike to be =

an "industrial issue" and not a political one, so he refuses to =

comment.

The workers who have shown their solidarity throughout the =

world know different. Nothing is more political than the right to =

work for decent pay and in decent conditions. They know that =

right had to be fought for in the past and now that battle is being =

fought again in Liverpool. Coming to a workplace near you. Fight =

on.

Dermot Sreenan

------------------------------------------------ This article is from the Irish Anarchist Paper =

Workers Solidarity, No 51 Summer 1997

The whole issue and previous issues can be found at http://www.geocities.com/Athens/2724/anpubdx.html

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