File spoon-archives/marxism-international.archive/marxism-international_1997/97-01-29.113, message 46

Date: Tue, 28 Jan 1997 14:23:39 GMT
Subject: M-I: Dockers new proposals

Below are details of the latest proposals put
by the Liverpool dockers to their ex-employers
with the hope of resolving the Liverpool docks
dispute. It seems to me that the Liverpool 
dockers pose a significant threat to international
capital. As the circuits of capital have expanded
across national boundaries groups of workers
nationally organised have been vulnerable to capital 
relocation and import competition. But productive
capital has nothing like the mobility of money capital.
The globalised economy relies on extended production 
networks and a high level of world trade. This means
that the docks across the world are needed as never
before. And communciations have allowed workers
to make contact as never before. This the Liverpool
dockers have demonstrated. They are now hoping
to pressure their employers to agree to 
practices that would give them some measure of
control of the docks labour force. They are picking
up on some of the best dock employment structures
they have seen across the globe and trying to use
global industrial action as a lever to implement 
these reforms. I think this would set many precedents
that capital would rather not see set.

Will Brown Bristol
(Printed above are just my personal views and may be well 
wide of the mark)

New Proposals

Merseyside Port Shop Stewards held a press conference on Friday morning
(24.1) to unveil new proposals to break the deadlock in the 16 month long
dockers dispute.

The fresh options, drawn up over the last two months in
close collaboration
with TGWU Deputy General Secretary Jack Adams,
 involve sacked men investing
a portion of their severance pay out from Mersey Docks to form a new
"labour supply unit" which would provide dock employment in all areas of
the port on a non-profit basis. The stewards expect that such a company,
to be set up through tripartite talks between the union, Mersey Docks, and
shippers, could generate a wide basis of financial, legal, and business

Stewards told the media they would insist on the removal of Drake
International and its scab workforce recruited to
 replace sacked dockers in
Seaforth Container Terminal. Any acceptable proposal would have to ensure
security of pensions, holiday and sick pay as well as permanent
for all sacked dockers who wish to return to the industry, recruitment
 and training, and an end to casual labour, stewards insisted.

On that basis, the idea has support from rank and file dockers who on
Friday authorised their stewards to pursue the proposals
 with Mersey Docks.

Before the press conference, the stewards' Chairman Jim Nolan talked with
Terry Malone of the Port Users Committee on BBC Radio Merseyside. Malone,
who frequently speaks in place of Mersey Docks, acknowledged that the Port
was not functioning normally in the general cargo areas and appeared
sympathetic to the proposal.

MDHC themselves were caught on the hop. By the afternoon,
 however, the dock
company had told the BBC that while they were not opposed to a
workers-cooperative running as a "proper business", the stewards' current
loyal workforce providing
"excellent service" and would not be dismissed after "improving
productivity in the Container Terminal by 50%" and "restoring customer
confidence" that had, MDHC declared, ebbed away just 
before September 1995.

In a live interview at 6:30 pm, steward Mike Carden dismissed claims of
Drake's productivity, recalling that just before sacking the men Mersey
Docks termed Liverpool dockers "the best in Europe". Speaking alongside
Carden, Terry Malone now regretted the plan was not "as positive as it had
appeared", and declared Drake should stay. Carden regretted the shift in
Malone's position, suggesting he had been whipped into line by MDHC.

The stewards' move clearly pre-empted a widely predicted decision by TGWU

General Secretary Bill Morris to impose a secret ballot on the current
"ultimate offer", a demand echoed by the company on Friday and
 rejected at the mass meeting once again.

Industrial pressure is set to mount as dockers seek to join forces with
1300 Ford workers facing dismissal at Halewood (Liverpool) as production of
the new Escort is to be limited to Valencia (Spain) and Saarlouis
(Germany). Hundreds of other redundancies at Gallaghers and Kodak on
Merseyside have also just been declared.

Beyond the tactical questions, the labour supply proposals are 
fraught with

dangers should they ever come to pass. Readers with experience of joint
union-management "co-operatives" may wish to respond directly to the
stewards or via LabourNet. We will pass email messages on to them.

Report by Greg Dropkin for LabourNet

LabourNet would particularly welcome discussion on these proposals from
other dockers and their organisations internationally. We feel strongly
that the tremendous support they have given Liverpool gives 
them a right to
comment. Dockers in some ports internationally do work through
co-operatives, in others the union runs the hiring hall. How do such
systems operate? Are they relevant to the Mersey dockers=92 present
situation? What pitfalls and dangers are there in these new proposals being
put forward by the Mersey stewards? There is a wealth of international
experience that ought to be considered here. We will convey any comment to
the stewards and also post it on the LabourNet web site to help develop
further discussion.

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