After two years...

The Liverpool Dockers are still fighting for jobs and union rights


In August 1995, Torside, a labour supply company set up by the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company (MDHC) sacked 20 workers, who were earning as little as £3.50 an hour, with no sick pay or holiday pay and no pension fund. In response to the sackings, 500 Liverpool dockers went on strike in September of that year. MDHC told them they were sacked and were being replaced by scab labour.

It's now two years on and the dockers have struggled against financial hardship, anti-union laws, police harassment and without official backing from their union, the TGWU. Support groups have been established in Britain and a solidarity network of dockers' organisations throughout the world as far away as Australia and South Africa. In Australia, the Maritine Union of Australia defied anti-union laws in support of dockworkers in Western Australia, while in South Africa, dockers refused to handle vessels connected to Liverpool, in a solidarity action on 9th September.

The second anniversary demonstration in Liverpool on 27 September had 6,000 supporters marching with the sacked dockers, for this is not just a fight for them, it is a fight against casual labour, for union rights and decent pay and conditions not just for themselves but for future generations. The demonstration called on the Labour Party to follow the historic principles on which the Labour Party was founded.

Most of the sacked workers come from families who have been involved in dock work for generations. Their families, organised particularly by Women of the Waterfront, have also been fighting for two years for reinstatement of the dockers. More decisive solidarity action can bring a result which would not only be a victory for dockers but for workers everywhere.

Irish solidarity demonstration with the dockers

Dockers in Derry and Belfast organised a work-to-rule and overtime ban against Coastal Containers (who also operate in Dublin and are a wholly owned subsidiary of MDHC) and the Belfast Support Group had a successful demonstration at the port gates in the morning of 8 September, turning back some lorries. A Belfast to Dublin vessel was on the verge of completion when workers walked out. Management came in as scabs. Drogheda dockers closed the port on the night shift.

A major demonstration was organised by the ATGWU in the early morning of 28 October, when representatives of the Liverpool dockers were at the forefront of a blockade of Dublin docks, causing backups of traffic for several hours as lorry drivers and other workers refused to pass the picket.

SIPTU workers support the dockers

Members of the Docks Marine and Transport Branch collected over £1,000 in aid of the Liverpool Dockers' Hardship Fund. The SIPTU members are employees of Coastal Line, and they were determined to show their sympathy for the struggle of the Liverpool dockers.


Correspondence to SIPTU Fightback, 22 Melrose Avenue, Dublin 3

To the SIPTU Fightback page