"As a Scab" : Rank and File Workers, Strikebreakers, and the end of the 1951 Waterfront Lock-out
AbstractOn 9 July 1951, the unions involved in the waterfront lock-out and the lock-out’s supporting strikes met and passed a return to work motion: ‘Supremely confident of the conscious discipline of our ranks we call upon every individual member to return to work and hold up the banner of his union on the job.’ The wording of the motion implied a top-down decision, and suggested that the rank and file were waiting for the call to return to work, an assumption that historians have not challenged. This article presents a different view of the end of the dispute, and explores the assessments that workers made about continuing the dispute, to demonstrate that they did not blindly followed those in leadership positions. Strikebreakers were central to the decisions workers made to continue the dispute; outside strikebreakers presented a risk to existing workers job – and the threat of never working on the wharf again made the costs of the dispute untenable for many. Despite their importance, strikebreakers have been under-researched, and this article suggests new ways of understanding the decisions made both by strikebreakers and by those who remained on strike or locked-out until 9 July. To understand the end of the 1951 waterfront dispute, it is not enough to examine the actions of union and political leaders like Jock Barnes, President of the New Zealand Waterfront Workers Union, and Prime Minister Sidney Holland.
CitationMillar, G. (2014) "As a Scab" : Rank and File Workers, Strikebreakers, and the end of the 1951 Waterfront Lock-out. New Zealand Journal of History, 48 (2) pp.71-90
JournalNew Zealand Journal of History
SponsorsFaculty of Social Science Wolverhampton University
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