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1988: Defiant seamen strike on
Thousands of seamen at major British ports are continuing to strike even though their union has called an end to the action.

The National Union of Seamen (NUS) backed down in the High Court this morning after a three-day stoppage, which has stifled seafaring trade and transport in the UK.

But 3,000 ferry men at Dover, Harwich and Portsmouth are refusing to return to work and have shifted their protest to local concerns.

Tailbacks of up to 300 freight lorries are clogging roads to the ports.

The NUS called a national strike last Sunday (31 January) in support of the 161 crew sacked by the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company for refusing to accept new terms and conditions.

I do not believe our members will go back
Sam McCluskie, NUS leader
The strike was hailed as a success by the union when fifty ships were prevented from sailing from 12 ports around the country, stopping all British sea traffic to the Continent, Ireland and the Scottish islands.

By Tuesday Mr Justice Kennedy had granted injunctions to seven ferry companies ordering the NUS to stop its action.

After accepting the High Court rulings NUS general secretary Sam McCluskie told the media: "I do not believe our members will go back. I have told them to go back, I have complied with the court."

The NUS has described the dispute as "the last straw in a decade that has seen nearly every shipping company sack British seafarers in favour of low-cost Third World crews."

In Dover the principle operators, P & O European Ferries, have just released proposals to cut back the number of seamen it employs from 2,000 to 1,600.

Ferry workers have been on strike in the Isle of Man since 29 December over changes to staffing, hours and leave entitlements.

Six hours of talks at Acas - the conciliation service - in London between Chief executive of the Steam Packet Company, David Dickinson, and NUS leaders, ended without agreement this evening.

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Photo of tailbacks on British motorways
Tailbacks of up to 300 lorries are clogging roads


In Context
Seamen at various ports around the UK continued their strike in spite of NUS calls for them to return to work.

The ferry companies returned to the High Court to sue the NUS for contempt and seize their assets.

In court the NUS argued they had carried out instructions to end the action over the Manx strike but other strikes had sprung up for local reasons.

The NUS was eventually fined 7,500 for not calling off the sympathy strike immediately.

The Manx strike ended on 14 February when the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company reduced redundancies from 71 to 43.

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