LiverpoolLiverpool Weekend

Liverpool Weekend (Day Two) – Museum of Liverpool – Nationalise the Docks Poster


This poster dates to 1947 and called for the nationalisation of the docks, which wasn’t an unreasonable demand given that the new Labour Government had started on a widespread process of bringing services under public control. I have limited knowledge of employment practices at the docks after World War Two, but casualisation was still a thing at this point, namely that workers weren’t guaranteed a fixed wage as there were multiple companies employing port workers at the time. It wasn’t until the 1960s and the Devlin Report that it was agreed that the port would guarantee hours, or instead pay a top-up payment, and the unions would drop some of their restrictive practices.

Shirley Williams said in the House of Commons in May 1966:

“As the House may recall, this goes back to the Report by Lord Devlin’s Committee of Inquiry last year. That Report was generally recognised as a major landmark in the troubled history of labour relations in the docks. Its basic recommendation was that the time had come to put an end to the present casual system of employing dock workers. Of course, the dock labour scheme as we now have it was a considerable advance on the completely casual conditions which existed before the war.

The present scheme does not go far enough. The majority of dock workers are still engaged on a daily basis. They may be working for a different employer every day of the week and their earnings are likely to fluctuate substantially from week to week. As the Devlin Report showed, it is impossible in these conditions to build up stable labour relations or to secure progressive and efficient management. It is to the credit of both sides of the industry that they immediately accepted the main recommendations of the Devlin Report.”