Longshore fight in England needs your support

Scott Marshall Scott at rednet.org
Tue Oct 10 20:40:00 MDT 1995


******ACTION ALERT******

Please publicise

Please circulate this message widely.

Over 400 dock workers have been dismissed by the Mersey Dock and Harbour
Company and associated companies. These men were amongst the last port
workers in Britain to maintain trade union recognition at their place of
work. Virtually every other port in the country has been de recognised
and  activists have been bought off, intimidated or victimised.

It is now apparent that the Mersey Dock and Harbour Company intends to do
the same in Liverpool. The struggle started over the dismisal of men from
a related company  and has escalated into a battle against dreaded casual
labour systems.

In ports like Liverpool the style of casual labour employment where
employees were hired and fired on the whim of foremen, where union
organisers were always overlooked, where wages were paid by the foremen
to the hired men in local pubs and where kickbacks to the foremen were
universally expected, was widespread. The system spread to many other
port related industries like transport, and continued in Liverpool until
relatively recently. There is widespread resentment and fear about its
return.

The dock workers took srtike action immediately after the sacking of
colleagues who refused to work without overtime payments. The Company
responded by sacking the whole workforce. In Britain, such immediate
strike action, particularly when no secret ballot has taken place to
endorse the action, is illegal. If the dock workers union, the TGWU, are
seen to support the men then the union is held liable to pay substantial
damages until it desists from such support.

The men are now caught in a trap. They cannot return to work since they
are dismissed and the company is setting about the hiring of new workers.
If they are not in work they cannot complete the complicated legal
procedure that has to be undergone to make a strike legal in Britain
today. It is therefore likely that they cannot receive any material aid
from their union since the union would then itself be broken by the
financial penalties that the courts would impose.

They are therefore mounting a struggle themselves and they need lots of
support.

In particular they need you

1. To affect the trading in the port of Liverpool in any way that you can.

2. To raise support and cash. Speakers will travel to address meetings in
Britain and cheques should be made payable to Jimmy Davis, Secretary to
the Port Shop Stewards Committee, CO TGWU, Transport House, Islington,
Liverpool. Tel: 0151 207 3388 Fax: 0151 298 1044

3. To raise the case with politicians, particulalry European Union
politicians since the Mersey Dock and Harbour Company is set to receive
major European cash as a result of Merseyside having Objective 1 status.

4. To pass on information to the dockers about any activities of the
Mersey Dock and Harbour Company that you know of.

5. To give examples of campaign activities against a company that could
be undertaken, particularly activities that will undermine the financial
viability of the company but which are not in themselves legal.

Such campaigns have not been too common in Britain and there is little
experience in the leadership of unions about running a war of attrition,
other than through the use of strike action. So examples from other
countries could be really helpful in allowing us to overcome the legal
minefield that ensnares trade union activity in Britain. Any ideas would
be welcome on how to go about a campaign and examples and contacts would
be helpful.

You can contact the dockers on the address in point 1 above. Or if it is
easier I will pass on email messages to them as and when I can.

Thanks in advance.



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