Lessons of 1951: The Waterfront Lockout 60 Years On

March 6, 2011

By Josh Glue, Workers Party Hamilton Branch

The waterfront lockout of 1951 was one of the most important events in New Zealand labour history. For 151 days the men who worked the waterfront and those who supported them fought back against the combined power of the ship-owners and the state, determined to force cutbacks upon them and destroy their union. Seen as an historical defeat by some, an inspiring fight-back by others, the waterfront lockout holds important lessons to those who struggle for workers rights today.

In this first of two articles about this pivotal moment in the history of the working class of this country, we will look at the history of the Waterfront Workers Union and the events that led up to the lockout. In the second article, to be published in the April issue of The Spark Magazine, we will examine the way the lockout ended, the repercussions of that conclusion then, and the relevance of these events for working New Zealanders today.
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