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From ‘docker’ to ‘terminal operator': work and employment change in the Port of London 1989 to 2002

By Joyce Cynthia Howson

Abstract

The National Dock Labour Scheme had protected British dockers and had provided a definition of "dock work'. Technical innovations in cargoes handling, especially containerisation, however, had altered how dock work was performed and had reduced the numbers of men needed. This had exacerbated problems in an industry notorious for its contentious industrial relations and had helped persuade the 1979-1997 Conservative government to deregulate the ports industry. The Scheme was abolished in 1989 and trade union derecognition followed.\ud \ud This thesis plots work and employment change in the Port of London between abolition in 1989 and the first test of recognition under the 1999 Employment Relations Act (ERA) in 2002. It is based on responses to a survey devised for this investigation and on interviews and conversations with both employers and cargo handlers working in the Port.\ud \ud Technical innovation had not only changed the nature of dock work but had also changed the area of competition. Abolition had allowed employers to remain competitive by introducing changes in work organisation - contractual functional and temporal flexibility, for example - and by segmenting the workforce. Men working in the Port experienced these changes as a decline in terms and conditions; this was especially true for the redundant dockers in the "new' temporary docks labour force, who had seen their employment change from secure to insecure. From about the mid-1990s, men working at various terminals had been able to regain some control over the labour process; this, however, had been outside union organisation. Although the main dock workers Branch had sustained organisation throughout the 1990s, it had suffered a decline in both numbers and power. Two Port employers had volunteered recognition under ERA. During the period covered by this research, however, this had seen only minor improvements in industrial relations

Topics: HD
Year: 2004
OAI identifier: oai:gala.gre.ac.uk:8627

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