20. We came, we saw, we conked out

Submitted by Steven. on January 6, 2007

It was a very hard decision to dissolve the Union. We kept talking of having a big re-launch, but nobody had the energy to make it happen. The discussions coincided with the West End Despatch dispute which we thought would bring in a lot of new members, but didn’t. The idea to dissolve was first raised at the end of 1991 because the DIWU had seemed to stagnate. But we kept going on into 1992.

We prepared another issue of Despatches but there was no enthusiasm for it and hardly anyone left to distribute it, so we never did the final layout. It should be noted here that the DIWU had more staying power than many companies during the recession. At the time lots of firms were involved in mergers, take-overs and bankruptcy. Even the Despatch Rider of the Year competition had folded, although this may have been partly due to the DIWU regularly taking the piss and running the parallel competitions of”Despatch Slave of the Year” in 1989 and “Shite Company of the Year” in 1990.

The DIWU lasted ten times longer than the TGWU branch, London Bicycle Couriers Association and the Despatch Riders Association - put together, of course. We came to a Union meeting in June 1992 when we realised that nearly everyone in the room was soon leaving or had recently left the industry. We decided to postpone the decision to dissolve the Union until the following meeting when all contacts had been written to.

At the next meeting we still could not face dissolving it, so it was postponed again until 20th July 1992. At the last union meeting two abstained and six voted in favour of dissolving the union and to send all its assets, nearly £900, to the Network Solidarity Fund. The NSF was managed by the anarchists of the Direct Action Movement who sponsor similar organisational campaigns as ours in other industries. They can take up where we left off. In fact, during the DIWU’s existence they had donated about £200 to us.

Alan: We had a good few bevvies and talked about the fun we’d had making monkeys out of the bosses. In the courier game you cannot be sure that all your friends and comrades will still be alive tomorrow. But here we all were, except for Peter Fordham, after three years, having survived the worst London traffic and the bosses could throw at us.

Adam: It was a shame to see the Union dissolved but there was no point in carrying on if hardly any of us still worked in the industry. Belonging to the DIWU was a great experience although there were numerous disappointments along the way. We tried as hard as we possibly could to create a spirit of rebelliousness and unionise this industry. You struggle to be optimistic and enthusiastic but eventually you think bollocks to it all. You need a break. Make up your own mind whether we succeeded or not. Learn from our mistakes, get together with a few mates and have a go yourself!

Note: In 1994 some of the former DIWU members started a courier section within the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW.) The IWW is an international general union that organises similarly to the DIWU. If you want to get in touch contact the IWW at 75 Humberstone Gate, Leicester, LEI 4WB.