Shipowners demand action
Despite the dockers’ victory in 1889, small strikes still took place. The unions kept up the pressure for further concessions. The continuing disputes angered the shipping companies, which demanded that they be allowed to load and unload their own ships.
|Shipping in the South West India Dock. © NMM|
|Shipping Federation offices on Connaught Road, Royal Victoria Dock. © NMM|
The London and India Docks Joint Committee, under Mr C. M. Norwood, thus found itself being attacked by the unions and criticized by the shipowners (now organized into the Shipping Federation). Keen to make more money, the Committee finally agreed to give up the sole right to unload ships.
|Dockers at work unloading a cargo of tea. © NMM|
This intensified the casual labour problem. The new rules meant that every shipowner could set their own wages and working conditions.
The Shipping Federation
|Cuthbert Laws, Secretary to the Shipping Federation. © NMM|
The large shipping companies were determined to restrict unionism and strikes at sea, on the waterfront, and in the docks. In September 1890 they formed the Shipping Federation, under the leadership of Cuthbert Laws.
At a time of trade depression and rising dock unemployment the re-organized employers decided to counter-attack.
|Lady Jocelyn (1852) was used to house strike-breakers. © NMM |
Three ships, the Paris, the Ella and the hulk Lady Jocelyn, were equipped to house blacklegs, or ‘free labour’. They could carry them wherever strike-breakers might be needed.
One London dock strike in the autumn of 1890 was completely defeated when the Federation brought in blacklegs from these ships.