PortCities London

Labour unrest in the port after 1889


Tom Mann
View full size imageTom Mann, one of the leaders of the 1889 Dock Strike. © NMM

The Great Dock Strike of 1889 ended in victory for the dockers. It also inspired many more workers to pursue their claims. However, the hated ‘call-on’ still remained.

Neither did the strike give Ben Tillett and Tom Mann what they wanted most. This was the exclusion of non-union labour from the port.

The employers, however, believed that the union's 'closed shop' took away their control over discipline and the pace of work. They claimed this reduced productivity.

Docker's strike July 1912.
View full size imageMounted police during the 1912 dock strike. © NMM
Employers were determined to stamp out unionism on the waterfront. With trade declining and dock unemployment rising in the 1890s, they made attempts to re-assert their authority.

The result was that industrial relations remained tense following the 1889 strike and for many years afterwards.