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, who were 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 for those who struggle for workers rights today.
In this second of two articles about this pivotal moment in the history of the working class of this country, we will examine the way working people came together to oppose the emergency regulations and support the wharfies, the way the government attempted to crush this support, and the way the lockout ended. Most importantly, we will see the importance of these events for modern New Zealand, what we can learn today from the men and women who stood up for their rights in 1951.