Labour unrest in the port after 1889
|The General Strike of 1926|
Supporting the miners
The Trades Union Congress (TUC) called a General Strike in early May 1926. They made the call in support of a strike by coal miners over the issue of threatened wage cuts.
The strike involved key industries like the docks, electricity, gas and railways. Some of the most dramatic episodes of the strike took place in the Port of London.
Vast quantities of perishable food stores lay in the warehouses. When the strikers said that power supplies would be cut, the government decided to move these cargoes.
Blacklegs, with Royal Navy help, loaded the goods onto hundreds of lorries inside the docks. The lorries were then driven away by soldiers from the Guards regiments.
Students rally to the government
For most of the students involved, performing hard physical labour during the 1926 strike was seen as a bit of fun as well as their civic duty.
No doubt many thoroughly enjoyed the unusual experience. But their intervention caused enormous bitterness among the dockworkers and their supporters.
Destroyers on the Thames
The unions defeated
The General Strike ended in defeat for the dockers and their supporters. In the face of well-organized government emergency measures, the strike collapsed after nine days.
The miners stayed out on strike, but eventually returned to work in August. They had to accept lower wages and longer hours.
Trade union membership declined after the strike. The dispute gave the government an excuse to pass retaliatory laws against the trades unions. It led to the passing of the 1927 Trade Disputes Act, which restricted the ability of workers to strike.