Sunday, November 01, 2015

The London Dockers - TGWU 1949

Britain's transport workers have long and great traditions of struggle. Those traditions will certainly be remembered this week at the 13th biannual conference of the Transport and General Workers Union which opened yesterday at Scarborough with them, adding honourably to a great record will be the knowledge of the gallant struggle of the doctors to assist the striking Canadian semen, one of the most remarkable working-class battles in history.

Look back a few years

Just 60 years ago the fathers and grandfathers of the doctors now on strike were marching through the city of London behind John Burns in his white straw hats and black beard.

Mr G.D.H Cole records that they had

" 41 banners some no more than red flags on polls some stranger........ stinking onions, stale fish heads, and incredibly pieces of meat stuck on spikes to show the city magnets whatthe dockers had to live on"
those men were demanding the famous "dockers tanner"

Before it was waged from August 13 to August 29, 1889 but at the end of that time funds were exhausted and the men were on the point of being starved back to work.

They will stay and finally swung through a remarkable piece of international solidarity a gift of £30,000 from Australian workers.

That is a gesture worth recalling today when Britain's dockers are being abused for their own international solidarity, their support of the Canadian seamen.

With Australian aid the dock strike waswon, and all who are familiar with the Labour movement know the British Labour entered a new era.

The "un-organisable" the unskilled workers had shown not only that they were organised, but they could fight and win.

With Tom Mann as president and Ben Tillett as secretary, the Dock, wharf,riverside and general labourers union was firmly established.
This was the union that became the foundation of the Transport and General workers union now the largest trade union in the world

Other union still regards possible workers excluding railwaymen as its basis, it caters also for a wide range of other industries, including building agriculture and engineering and most of its sections have proved themselves worthy fighters when the occasion demanded a fight.

Dockers for instance fought a great and successful strike in 1911 stop in 1928 helped to save the life of the young Soviet republic by their refusal to load the " jolly George" with munitions for Poles then invading Russia.

The action had the full support of the union and was followed by working class action prevented British armed intervention against the Russian workers.

In 1938 dockers at Southampton, Liverpool, London, and Middlesbrough refused to handle cargoes for Japan which had already invaded China.

This time their support was not officially supported by the union, if it had been the chances of halting fascist aggression and therefore preventing the war that began in the following year would have been very much greater.

Despite all the abuse that had been hurled at them by the press and the Labour government getting is that the dockers at Liverpool, Avonmouth and London who have done so much to uphold working-class ideals and just as proud of their action today and their fathers are of their association with the"Jolly George"

The passenger transport workers have also had great battles when their union was first established the general secretary pawned his watch to pay the office rents and the London trades Council gave £10 to pay the organisers wages for a month.

In 1924 the London Busmen came out for 10 days in an official strike to help the tram men to victory. In 1937 the busmen were striking for their own demands of the leadership of the transport and Gen workers union did not bring the tram men out and the strike failed.
Road haulage workers in the union for a strike in 1947 and one most of their demands.

Very soon the engineering and building section of the union are likely to be involved in a for better agreements launched by Engineering Confederation and the National Federation of Building Trade Operatives.

Because of its size and the importance of the industry's for which it caters de TGWU occupies a key position in the British Labour movement. You are horrible it must be admitted without a struggle of its members have received less and less support from the official leadership of the union in recent years.

The workers in all industries are learning very rapidly that the FA to power of a Labour government, with its present right-wing leadership, has been no way eliminated the need for struggle if the workers are to improve or indeed protect their wages and conditions and to control the industries in which they are employed.

The onset of the present crisis, with the repeated emphasis from the government and trade union leaders on the need to reduce costs (meaning wages) has made this even clearer than it was.

But contemporary events are also proving every day that the fighting spirit of the early pioneers who built the Transport and General Workers Union is very much alive in their descendants today.

Jack Dunman
Daily Wworker 12 July 1949there are