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1972: National dock strike begins

VIDEO : BBC news footage of union leader Bernard Steer at a London rally

Thousands of British dockers have begun an official strike to safeguard jobs.

No cargo will be handled by the country's 42,000 registered dockers, but roll-on roll-off ferries will still pass through railway ports like Dover and Folkestone.

They are protesting at plans for compulsory redundancies and against threats to their workload from container firms using cheaper, casual labour.


"These things have got to be done by agreement and not by bludgeoning"

Lord Adlington, Chair of the Port of London Authority

The National Docks Delegate Conference of the Transport and General Workers Union (TGWU) voted 38 to 28 in favour of industrial action with 18 abstentions last night.

They rejected the report presented by a special joint committee - set up to investigate the industry six weeks ago - headed by Chairman of the Port of London Authority, Lord Adlington, and General Secretary of the TGWU, Jack Jones.

Lord Aldington said: "My job is to show everybody that when I say I'm going to do something then that has got to be done. But these things have got to be done by agreement and not by bludgeoning."

All 16 members of the committee approved the scheme and the Conservative Government will provide the 7.5m to pay off the 2,500 unfit or over-55-year-old dockers the industry needs to lose to survive.

National docks secretary of the TGWU Timothy O'Leary advised the dockers' conference to accept the plan, but delegates from the larger ports thought it inadequate.

Secretary of State for Employment Maurice Macmillan has held briefings with Lord Aldington, Mr Jones and the port employers and said he is not considering using emergency powers.

"Overall our main concern is to rescue the Jones-Aldington plan from the militants and to try to help the industry," he said.

Dockers have been on unofficial strike for a week after the imprisonment of five shop stewards for contempt of the Industrial Relations Court.

In Context
The national strike continued for over a week before the government proclaimed a state of emergency on 4 August.

The Jones-Aldington committee met again on 9 August, the day Parliament broke up for summer recess.

After several violent incidents and arrests, the Delegate Conference of the TGWU met on 17 August and voted 53 to 30 to call off the strike.

They accepted an amended Jones-Adlington Agreement which included the end of the temporarily unofficial register - allowing unregistered dockers to work in the industry - no redundancies and ensuring all container work was done inside the ports.

Shop stewards from eight ports decided to maintain an unofficial stoppage.

All but the most militant dockers had returned to work by 22 August.


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