Inter-Union Relations on the Waterfront: Cardiff 1888–1914

Author: Daunton, M. J
Published in: International Review of Social History, vol. 22(1977) no.3, p. 350-378.
Summary: The waterfront in the nineteenth century was notorious for its complex and fragmented labour market. The stevedores on board ship and the porters on the shore were always quite distinct. In London, there were then further divisions, between quay and warehouse workers, between the export and import trades. And within these broad divisions, workers would concentrate upon a particular commodity. Specialisation was rife: the labour-force was a complex body, lacking cohesion because of the diversity of products and functions, the variety of employers, and a casual system which restricted workers to particular localities and types of work. This clearly created problems when unionisation occurred. Each specialism tended to organise separately, and the result would be a plethora of unions somewhat overlapping and competing. In London, again, there was “an endless proliferation of small societies”.1 And quite apart from the complexity of union organisation amongst the dock workers there were the external relations with on the one side the seamen, and on the other railwaymen and carters. This is all to say that one of the key elements in labour relations on the waterfront before 1914 was inter-union relations.
Copyright: Copyright © Internationaal Instituut voor Sociale Geschiedenis 1977
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