Mersey dockers reject surrender

An article about the Liverpool dockers dispute. Originally appeared in the Industrial Worker #1607 (December 1997)

Submitted by Juan Conatz on May 19, 2016

After more than two years on strike, the Liverpool dockers have once again confirmed their resolve to stand by union principles, voting overwhelmingly against taking [sterling]28,000 bribes to abandon the Torside dockers (who were fired for refusing unpaid overtime; the Mersey dockers were locked-out when they honored Torside dockers' picket lines) and give up the fight for all their jobs. Fewer than 75 dockers would have returned to work under the proposal. Only 329 of the nearly 500 dockers involved in the dispute were permitted to vote in the ballot ordered by TGWU officials, and only 97 of those voted to give in.

Mersey Docks & Harbour Co. responded with an announcement that it would send each docker a form to sign abandoning their jobs in exchange for the [sterling]28,000 payment.

In the midst of an exuberant picket celebrating the No vote a policewoman instructed a steward to get off the grass and stop shouting at scabs behind the perimeter fence. Fifty pickets quickly crossed the road to join their colleague and an Inspector told his junior officer to move away.

A few days later, traffic in and out of the Port of Dublin came to a standstill October 28 as Liverpool dockers blockaded the main entrance for an hour. When the Gardai arrived the dockers began to circle the roundabout, further disrupting traffic before marching to the Coastal Container terminal where many workers came out to join them and all work stopped for 30 minutes. At the Irish Ferries berth, dockers refused all work on the "Coastal Bay," a Coastal Container vessel owned by Jungerhans.

Dublin handles more Liverpool ships than any other port in the world, including frequent services on Coastal Container Line which is 100 percent owned by MDHC and also serves Belfast, Greenock and Cardiff.

Michael O'Reilly, incoming ATGWU Regional Secretary for the Republic of Ireland, said his members were "trying to show our solidarity and continue a long association with the Liverpool dispute. We are seeking the support of our colleagues from other unions in the Port of Dublin."

In Liverpool dockers are once again confronting the Operational Support Division (riot police) of Merseyside Police on the picket line. Evidently, this is Mersey Dock's response to the democratic decision of sacked dockers to reject their "final offer." Rather than open negotiations, they have called on the authorities and the media to back up their claim that the dispute is now "over." OSD officers prevented picketing of one gate 12 November to enable traffic to enter. Pickets succeeded in closing off the other two main entrances to the Port of Liverpool.

In Oakland, California, where pickets repeatedly blocked efforts to unload scab cargo from the Neptune Jade, loaded in MDHC-operated Thamesport, in October, employers are dragging identified picketers into court on charges of violating a court injunction barring effective solidarity actions. The bosses are also suing for economic damages.

On Oct. 28 the San Francisco Labor Council unanimously adoped a resolution reasserting their support of the Liberpool dockers, and "defending workers rights to picket and exercise their first amendment rights to speech and freedom of association." The resolution condemned the Pacific Maritime Association's lawsuit for damages and an injunction as an effort to intimidate workers and urged contributions to the legal defense of the pickets, at the Liverpool Dockers Victory Defense Committee, P.O. Box 2574, Oakland CA 94614.

When the Neptune Jade arrived in Yokohama October 15, dockers refused to unloadthe seven containers which had been loaded in Thamesport and were supposed to be unloaded in Oakland. But about 200 other containers were loaded and unloaded in Yokohama. Two days later Kobe dockers also resued to unload the containers.

Originally appeared in the Industrial Worker #1607 (December 1997)