Liverpool, England, dockers win strike with major international support, 1995-1998


To restore the jobs to those dockers who were sacked, and to allow the formation of a dockers union to bring about reasonable wages and hours.

Time period

28 September, 1995 to 27 January, 1998


United Kingdom

Location City/State/Province

Liverpool, England

Location Description

Port city, 4th most populous in England
Jump to case narrative

Methods in 1st segment

  • Some workers who were not sacked choose not to cross the picket line to work, but remain outside in solidarity.
  • Strikers burned shipping barrels in front of the factory
  • Workers, delegates from various trade councils occupied Drake International, an employment agency hired by MDHC to fulfill positions of fired workers

Methods in 2nd segment

  • president of the International Longshoremen's Union of America informed the MDHC that they would cut ties economically if they did not re-open talks with striking workers

Methods in 3rd segment

  • British artists held a concert to raise money for families involved in the docker's strike

Methods in 4th segment

  • Dockers picketed in front of the Belfast docks, delaying the workday for thousands of workers one morning in September.

Methods in 5th segment

  • Hundreds of protestors marched from Hyde Park in a protest march

Methods in 6th segment

Segment Length

5 months


Mike Carden, Spokesperson for the striking dockers


Bill Morris, Leader of the TGWU

External allies

Hyndburn and Rossendale Trade Union Council; Transport and General Workers' Union; Edinburgh Trades Council; Dockers in various countries including USA, Australia, Denmark, Canada, Norway; John Bowers, president of the International Longshoremen's Union of America; Atlantic Containers Ltd

Involvement of social elites

Robbie Fowler, a striker for famed club Liverpool, raised his jersey revealing a shirt calling for solidarity for the dockers after he scored a goal against Norway's SK Brann


Mercy Docks and Harbour Company; Trevor Furlong, chief executive of MDHC;

Nonviolent responses of opponent

Not known

Campaigner violence

Striking dockers have assaulted strikers who refused to strike, and even petrol-bombed the cars of non-striking workers

Repressive Violence

Not known


Economic Justice



Group characterization

dock workers from all over the world seeking economic justice and stability

Groups in 1st Segment

Hyndburn and Rossendale Trade Union Council
Edinburgh Trades Council

Groups in 2nd Segment

International Longshoremen's Union of America
Atlantic Containers Ltd.

Segment Length

5 months

Success in achieving specific demands/goals

5 out of 6 points


1 out of 1 points


3 out of 3 points

Total points

9 out of 10 points

Notes on outcomes

While the dockers did gain compensation for their time away from work, many of the workers lost their jobs in the process, and did not gain a higher wage rate they desired.

Database Narrative

On 28 September 1995 the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company fired 329 port workers in Liverpool, England, for joining a picket line in solidarity with fellow port workers in Torside. The Torside workers were fired for protesting against the “free-market” style of labor, in which there was no job security, no wage security, and a constant change of working hours. In this format, workers could be phoned at any time and asked to come in to work.

After firing their employees the company replaced them with substitute workers.  This treatment of workers in Liverpool, the fourth-most-populous city in England, reverberated around the world.  Shipping yard workers picketed against the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company’s action in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Poland, Greece, Russia, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan.

The company lost $23 million of its value in the first year due directly to those strikes. Strikers caused a 17.5% drop in profit in the first year as well. 

Dockers continued to picket, hold protest marches, and interrupt shareholder’s meetings in an attempt to make their voices heard. Musicians like Noel Gallagher of Oasis and comedian Lee Hurst held shows that benefited the workers in their strike efforts. Famed Liverpool star football striker Robbie Fowler showed his support in a United European Football Association European competition, when, after scoring a goal, he raised his jersey, revealing a shirt calling for support of the Liverpool workers. 

On 30 September 1996 one year after the beginning of the strike, workers in Liverpool announced that there would an international day of action. There were mass pickets to mark the anniversary of the dispute. Dockers in various countries agreed not to contract with shipping lines that used Liverpool replacement workers. In Denmark, three ports came to a halt, and workers in France and Australia delayed vessels that had done business at the Liverpool docks. 

The Mersey Docks and Harbour Company offered a settlement of 25,000 pounds per fired employee in February 1996, and agreed to hire back 40 of the 329 protesting workers, but the offer was rejected. More pickets and marches followed, while demonstrations grew. In Belfast, Northern Ireland, hundreds of workers marched, delaying the morning commute. Workers held demonstrations in London, including marches in Hyde Park. Workers also held a two-year anniversary strike in September 1997.

In February 1998, nearly two-and-a-half years after the strike began, workers agreed to a settlement that paid the unemployed workers 28,000 pounds each. The workers were joyous, as they felt they had been well compensated for their striking time. 


"The Flickering Flame." Documentary (1997) Accessed 16 February 2013 at

"Scots join dockers' protest." The Scotsman. (November 28, 1995 , Tuesday ): 245 words. LexisNexis Academic. Web. Date Accessed: 2013/02/16.(%2010D87728A53252DE%20)&p_docid=10D87728A53252DE&p_theme=aggdocs&p_queryname=10D87728A53252DE&f_openurl=yes&p_nbid=S53P46ADMTM2MDk4MjEyOS4zMTE0MzoxOjEwOjEzMC41OC4wLjA&&p_multi=LCPB

"GREY-HAIRED DOCKERS MAKE LAST STAND; Church urges 'mercy' for sacked men as employers' profit soars, writes Martyn Halsall." The Guardian (London). (December 4, 1995 ): 1187 words. LexisNexis Academic. Web. Date Accessed: 2013/02/16.

"Liverpool militants return to petrol-bomb dock 'scabs'." The Sunday Times (London). 752 words. LexisNexis Academic. Web. Date Accessed: 2013/02/16.

"US SUPPORT FOR DOCK STRIKERS." The Guardian (London). (March 14, 1996 ): 614 words. LexisNexis Academic. Web. Date Accessed: 2013/02/16.

"Quebec Montreal port hit by protest." The Globe and Mail (Canada). (July 16, 1996 Tuesday ): 122 words. LexisNexis Academic. Web. Date Accessed: 2013/02/16.

"DOCKERS PROTEST; Protestors hold demonstration in support of Liverpool dockers." Sunday Mail. (December 15, 1996 , Sunday ): 74 words. LexisNexis Academic. Web. Date Accessed: 2013/02/15.

"Fowler and Collymore finish the job." The Scotsman. (March 21, 1997 , Friday ): 557 words. LexisNexis Academic. Web. Date Accessed: 2013/02/15.

"DOCKERS' DISPUTE HOLDS UP TRAFFIC." Belfast News Letter (Northern Ireland). (September 9, 1997 , Tuesday ): 134 words. LexisNexis Academic. Web. Date Accessed: 2013/02/16.

"Mass demo for dockers." Bristol Evening Post. (September 27, 1997 ): 82 words. LexisNexis Academic. Web. Date Accessed: 2013/02/16.

"DOCKERS DEMO; Sacked Liverpool dockers bring the city to a standstill yesterday with protest march." Sunday Mail. (September 28, 1997 , Sunday ): 57 words. LexisNexis Academic. Web. Date Accessed: 2013/02/16.

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy

John Pontillo, 16/02/2013