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The 2 1/2 -year dispute which made heroes out of city's defiant dock workers.

IN SEPTEMBER, 1995, docks company Torside, at Bootle, sacked 80 workers who set up an unofficial picket line after a dispute relating to overtime and rates of pay.

The next day, 329 men from the Mersey Docks and Harbour company were sacked after refusing to cross that picket line. So started one of the most significant industrial disputes in recent history.

London-based Drake International was brought in to recruit replacements. The new recruits were regarded as scabs and strikebreakers, a situation that sparked bitter recriminations. There were incidents galore including sniper attacks and firebombs as the dispute escalated into a war which did not end for 850 days when the men, many reluctantly, decided to accept a "final" offer of pounds 28,000 each while others were given jobs.

The strikers had become folk heroes to many for being the last group of British workers to challenge indirectly the abolition in 1989 of the National Dock Labour scheme. This, they believed, heralded a return to the "bad old days" of casual labour and the uncertainties in pay and working hours it entailed. Drake's has grown to control a workforce of more than 200. Ironically, its contract is up next year - which could see Mersey Docks looking at the marketplace for alternatives as the recession bites.

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Dockers' wives on the picket line; The dispute escalated
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Feb 10, 2009
Words:226
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