Ten years ago – Liverpool dockers’ strike

THE ALMOST three-year long struggle by Liverpool dockers began at the end of September ten years ago. The strike began when five workers employed by an offshoot of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company (MDHC) were sacked when they walked off the job after refusing to work for casual rates. After another 80 workers were sacked, the strike began.

The dockers knew the company would try to undermine their pay and conditions. They had sent out new contracts on worse terms and conditions to 250 workers but 120 had no contracts at all – these were the stewards and others who had challenged management in the past.

The government had a ‘golden share’ in the MDHC but refused to use their influence to reinstate the sacked dockers.

The strike lasted nearly three years, with support from thousands of other workers. But the dockers’ heroic attempts to defend their own wages and conditions and those for apprentices in the future, was eventually defeated. This was in spite of solidarity action from dockers across the world, including in the USA and Israel. But the TGWU leader Bill (now Lord) Morris was not prepared to organise any action within the UK, using the anti-union laws as an excuse.

For a fuller analysis of the strike see Bill Mullins’ article in
Socialism Today, issue 26, March 1998.
(Not online unfortunately.)