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The Great Dock Strike of 1889

Introduction
The situation on the eve of the strike
The spark
The strike spreads
Mobilizing support
Hardship
Australia to the rescue
The Mansion House Committee
Effects of the strike
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Introduction

Unloading tea ships in the East India Docks
View full size imageUnloading tea ships in the East India Docks. © NMM
The dangerous nature of port work, combined with low pay, poor working conditions and widespread social deprivation ensured that the workforce looked to their trade unions for protection. As a result, industrial relations were strained throughout the history of the port.

Casual labour 

Dockers presenting themselves for work.
View full size imageDockers presenting themselves for work. © NMM
The first major eruption of unrest came with the Great Dock Strike of 1889. It took place against the background of growing trade unionism among unskilled workers and discontent at the wretched living conditions of dockers and their families. At the root of this was the casual nature of dock labour, organised via the 'call-on' and the contract system.

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Glossary
Call-on
Casual labour
Dock
Port

Find out more
GalleriesImages of protest.
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StoriesSocial conditions in the 19th century port
Life in the dockland slums
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StoriesThe 19th-century port
Docks and industry transform the Thames
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StoriesThames Ironworks
Building for London and the world
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StoriesLabour unrest in the port after 1889
Industrial relations in the Port of London were strained throughout the 20th century
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National Maritime Museum/Royal Observatory Greenwich New Opportunities Fund  
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