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1955: Queen Elizabeth sails on schedule

Striking seamen have failed to delay the sailing of the Queen Elizabeth ocean liner which left Southampton on schedule this afternoon.

The 83,673 ton Cunard liner set sail for New York at 1358BST with a full crew and 1,300 passengers despite last minute attempts to persuade her staff to join the industrial action.

The unofficial strike, which began on 31 May in Liverpool, has seen sailings cancelled from Southampton and Liverpool, leaving thousands of passengers stranded.

The dissatisfied seamen are demanding improved working conditions, including reduced working hours from 70 per week to 44, better accommodation and "shop stewards" on their ships.

The National Union of Seamen is opposed to the action.

Passengers stranded

Participation by crew members from the Queen Elizabeth, which has the largest number of staff of all the ships, has been seen as crucial to the dispute.

It was thought that many of the 1,275 staff would stage a walk-off when the liner docked at Southampton in the early hours of Tuesday morning (21/06/55) but this failed to materialise.

Efforts have continued in vain to gain the support of the QE's crew, including the staging of a full-scale strike meeting, attended by more than 500 strikers, in close proximity to the vessel.

Cunard insists the Queen Elizabeth is a "happy" ship.

More than 2,000 passengers were left stranded at the start of the action when the Ascania, the Britannic and the Saxonia cancelled their scheduled sailings from Liverpool.

The sailing of the Mauretania was then cancelled from Southampton.

On June 16 the departure of the Queen Elizabeth's sister ship the Queen Mary, had to be cancelled at the last minute when 49 members of her crew refused to sail.

In Context
The failure to prevent the Queen Elizabeth's departure on 23 June was seen as a strong sign that the strike would come to an end.

In the following days seamen, disillusioned with the action, did indeed begin returning to work. The strike officially came to an end on 1 July.

Cunard initiated legal proceedings against the 49 crew members of the Queen Mary which saw each of them being given a conditional discharge.

None of them was re-employed on the Cunard liner.

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