‘Union orders dockers back to work’ - What was making the news on this day in 1950

On this day: EDP 21 April 1950

On this day: EDP 21 April 1950 - Credit: Archant

We look back on what was making the news on this day in Norfolk. Today, we look at the Eastern Daily Press front page of April 21, 1950.

Orders to resume work immediately were given to the London dock strikers by the National Docks Group Committee of the Transport and General Workers' Union yesterday. The committee declared itself 'determined to uphold the rules and constitution of the union.'

Thousands more men stopped work in support of the unofficial strike of 1856 dockers which began on Wednesday over the union's refusal to reinstate three workers expelled for their alleged part in the Canadian seamen's dispute last year.

By the afternoon there were 6737 men on strike, and of 115 ships in the port, 41 were idle and ten undermanned. A mass meeting of dockers is being called at Victoria Park, Canning Town, this morning.

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Appeals to Men

A union statement called on the men 'to accept the advice of their constitutionally elected representatives, and resume work immediately.' The Port Labour Executive Committee, representing both sides of the industry, comprising London port employers, the Transport and General Workers' Union and the National Amalgamated Stevedores' and Dockers' Union, unanimously passed this resolution:-

'The committee strongly condemn the unofficial strike action which has been taken in breach of national and local agreements and call for an immediate resumption of work. The strike is serving no purpose other than to disrupt the work of the port. The issues stated to be involved do not in any way concern the port employers. There is nothing, therefore, which the joint concilliation machinery can deal with.'

Statement in Commons

Mr George Isaacs, the Minister of Labour, in reply to Mr Churchill in the House of Commons, made the following statement;

'Normal working was procedding this morning in all areas except the Royal and West India Docks and a part of the pool area where a proportion of the men are out.

The stoppage is connected solely with the decision of the Transport and General Workers' Union to expel three members on account of their activities in the course of the Communist-directed strike that occurred in the London docks in the summer of last year, their refusal to observe the rules and constitution of the union and to give undertakings as to their future conduct. It has nothing whatever to do with certain proposals of Messrs, Shaw, Savill & Albion in regard to which I am still awaiting a reply from the National Amalgamated Stevedores and Dockers.

Communist Support

'The strike last summer resulted from the deliberate planning of Communnist agitators in another country, supported by Communist sympathisers in this country. The cases of the three men expelled - one of whom is a well known Communist - were dealt with as a domestic matter within the union and under its constitutional rules that govern such proceedings.

'Appeals were heard and the expulsion confirmed by a duly consituted committee consisting entirely of rank and file members of the union. The present stoppage is clearly Communist inspired and is nothing else than an attack on the democratic and constitutional rules of Transport and General Workers' Union. It is significant that the leader of this attack is a member of another union.

'This stoppage, which as I have said is in no way connected with any dispute with the employers regarding rates and conditions of employment, shows once again the lengths to which the Communists are prepared to go in their attempt - and I am glad to say in their losing attempt - to gain control of the trade union movement.

'No Shadow of Excuse'

'We are also determined that the vital interests of the nation must be safeguarded. The men who allow themselves to be misled into taking part in this stoppage have no shadow of excuse for their action. It is a blow directed especially against their fellow workers and trade unionists. The vast majority of the members employed in the port are showing their loyalty to their trade unions. The rest should do likewise. The attack against their union will then immediately fail.'

Mr Churchill - May I be permitted to express on behalf of the whole House our support of the Minister in the course he has taken and our thanks to him for the extremely lucid and full statement he has made.