brit_seamenNo Winners: The British Seamen's Strike of 1925

by Peter Gifford

ISBN 0 85905 355 5, (2005 New), Soft Cover, A4, 71pp, 210grams

$22.00 + POST

This is a study of the world’s first transnational strike, by more than 10,000 British seamen in their home ports, along with South Africa and Australasia. Many of these seamen had won pay increases during the Great War of 1914-18 for their bravery in continuing to work their ships in the face of the German submarine menace in the North Atlantic. In 1925 they took what amounted to ‘wildcat’ strike action because those same increases were removed – not by their employers but at the behest of their own union leaders in Britain. What was proposed and accepted by the shipowners was a cut of one pound a month – from ten pounds down to nine pounds – which by Australian standards placed them well below the poverty line. The strike tied up British ships on the Cape routes to and from Britain and South Africa, Australia and New Zealand for several months, causing chaos not only in the passenger trade but in those primary industries dependent on exports to Britain – then the major market for virtually all Australasian and South African exports.