Socialist Worker

Dock strike - from show of strength to shambles

Issue No. 1

Last weekend's conclusion of the docks strike was a messy affair. What started as a dramatic show of strength by the TGWU finished just ten days later in a shambles and few will be happy with the final outcome.

The deal they reached certainly gave nothing away to the employers. The ten day long strike forced the government, to the annoyance of many port employers, to distance themselves from any plans to abolish the National Dock Labour Scheme. But such gains are small in comparison to what was at stake.

For once the national leadership of a major union had actually decided to go on the offensive against the Tories. In recent years the Dock Labour Scheme had come under increasing pressure. Both employers and the government had stepped up their campaign against it.

The TGWU itself had also felt increasingly threatened. Membership has fallen consistently over the last four years.

A few months ago, John Connolly, the national docks official, had spelt out in an internal memorandum the need for the TGWU to go on the offensive.

The TGWU leaders were looking for a short sharp shock to employers and government. But they had no desire to see a major, possibly long drawn-out, confrontation. The Immingham issue was perfect from their point of view.

(28 July, 1984)


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