Heatons Transport (St. Helens) Ltd v TGWU (Interim Proceedings)

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
Judgment Date13 June 1972
Judgment citation (vLex)[1972] EWCA Civ J0613-2
Date13 June 1972
CourtCourt of Appeal (Civil Division)
Heatons Transport (St. Helens) Limited
Transport and General Workers Union
and between
Craddock Brothers
Transport and General Workers Union
and between
Panalpina Service Limited
Panalpina (Northern) Limited
Transport and General Workers Union
Walter Cunningham
North Sea Ferries Limited

[1972] EWCA Civ J0613-2


The Master of The Rolls (Lord Denning)

Lord Justice Buckley and

Lord Justice Roskill

In The Supreme Court of Judicature

Court of Appeal

On appeal from the National Industrial Relations Court

Mr. PETER PAIN, Q.C., Mr. IAN HUNTER and Mr. K.W. WEDDENBURN (instructed by Messrs Pattinson & Brewer) appeared on behalf of the Transport and General Workers Union.

Mr. RICHARD YORKE, Q.C., Miss CAROLINE ALTON and Mr. Andrew Abdela (instructed by Messrs. Gregory Roweliffe & Co., agents for Messrs. John B. Kevill of Chorley, Lancashire) appeared on behalf of the Complaints, Respondents, Messrs. Heatons Transport (St. Helens) Ltd.

Mr. RICHARD YORKE, Q.C., and Mr. ANDREW ABDELA (instructed by Messrs Gregory Rowcliffe & Co, agents for Messrs, John B. Kevill of Chorley, Lancashire) appeared on behalf of the Complainants Respondents, Messrs. Craddock Brothers.

Mr. RICHARD YORKE Q.C, and Miss CAROLINE ALTON (instructed by Messrs. Gregory Rowcliffe & Co., agents for Messrs. John B. Kevill & Son of Chorley, Lancashire) appeared on behalf of Panalpina Services Ltd, Complainants, Respondents.




We are in the midst of the "container revolution". Only a few years ago goods for export or import were handled up to a dozen times. They were loaded into wagons, at the factory or warehouse; they were taken by road or rail to the docks, unloaded on to the wharf, slung by cranes over the ship's rail, stowed and stacked in the holds: and transported overseas where all took place again in reverse. That is all changed. Goods are now handled only once at each end. They are loaded at the factory or warehouse into a "container" of great size. This container is carried to the docks, lifted mechanically into a "container" ship, transported overseas, lifted off and taken direct to its destination. This operation has its own terminology. Then you load a container you "stuff" it: when you unload it you "strip" it. This has had dire results for deck workers. Quite recently, after long years, they had obtained high wages and good security. Now they see their jobs disappearing before their very eyes. No longer do they unload wagons on to the quay. No longer do they fill the slings and work the cranes. No longer do they stack and stow in the holds. Only a few men are needed to work the lifting gear for the containers.


The new system works all right for the dockers when the containers are "stuffed" or "stripped" in the port area: because there the "stuffing" and stripping" is done by registered dock workers themselves: and they do it at the high wages they have won over the years. But the trouble arises when the "stuffing" and "stripping" is done at a warehouse or "container base" which is outside the port area. It may be only a yard or two over theboundary: but still, once outside the port area, by no matter how narrow a margin, the work is not done by registered dock workers: but by other labour at lower wages. That was settled by the decision of the House of Lords in National Dock Labour Board v. John Bland 1971 2 W.L.R. 1491. In the last two or three years, however, there has been a further development. Increasingly the "stuffing" and "stripping" of containers is being done in warehouses and bases which are many miles inland, where sites are cheap and wages low. The dock workers stand idly by watching their. jobs go. They get angrier and angrier. In 1967 there were 60,000 registered dock workers. Now in five years it has; gone down to 40,000.


The dock workers take no objection to manufacturers who take their own goods by their containers from "door to door." But they object to the middlemen, that is, the hauliers and warehousemen who collect othc-f peoples goods and "stuff" them into containers outside the port area, They object particularly when it is a "group" container that is "stuffed" with the goods of a group of consignees. But they object also when it is a "single" container, that is "stuffed" with the goods of a single consignee, that is, when it is "stuffed" not by him, but by a warehouseman or haulier. The dock workers feel that the work of "stuffing" or "stripping" is on a par with the loading and unloading of wagens which they used to do. They feel that it is these ware-housemen or hauliers who have deprived them of their jobs. They demand that the work of "stuffing" and "stripping" should be given back to the dock workers. It should be done in the port area or, in its vicinity by registered dock workers.


Most of the dock workers belong to a trade union called the Transport and General Workers Union, It is the biggest trade union in the country. It has 700,000 members. It covers many trade groups. It includes dock workers, lorry drivers, building workers and no end of others. Each trade group has its own governing body within the union. The dockers group has done all in its power to help the men. It has done everything it lawfully can to get the work back for the dock workers. I stress the word "lawfully", because, so far as I can see, every responsible officer within the union has done his best to keep within the law. Mr. O'Leary says in his affidavit: "I believe that the union should work within the law and this has always been union policy".


Let me state what the dockers group has done. In the middle of 1971 there was a national delegate conference of the group. It adopted, as an official policy, the aim of obtaining for dock workers the right to "stuff" and "strip" containers. In support of this policy, it authorised the "blacking" at that time of the Danish service of the Ellum-Wilson Company in Hull and another company in London. No cargo was to be shipped for those companies. That "blacking" was not very successful, because the goods were shipped through other ports. It was, however, at that time quite lawful, because it was protected by section 3 of the Trade Disputes Act 1906, which was then in force, see Torquay Hotle Co. Ltd.v. Cousins 1969 2 Ch. 106 at pages 139-140.


On 28th February 1972 the Industrial Relations Act 1971 came into force in this regard, and the Trade Disputes Act 1906 no longer afforded a protection, boon afterwards, in March 1972, shop stewards at Liverpool called on the men there to "blaok" some companies. In May 1972 shop stewards at Hull did likewise. Tothose I will return soon. But I must point out that those "blackings" were never authorised by the docks group of the Union, nor by any of the official committees of the Union. The only action which has been authorised by the docks group was taken quite recently on 4th May 1972. At a National Docks Delegate Conference in London it was decided to give 28 days notice of strike action. This was given to expire on 2nd June 1972, and has been extended to 16th June 1972. That in Friday of this week. If such action takes place, it will be perfectly lawful, being made so by section 147 of the 1971 Act, which, in effect, affirms the law as stated in this Court in 1968 in Morgan v. Fry 1968 3 W.L.R. 506.


Meanwhile discussions are going on by a committee which, it is hoped, will be able to resolve the difficulties. So the Union are doing what they can for the men.


But meanwhile we are faced with the legal consequences of the "blackings" at Liverpool and Hull. They have been called for by shop stewards. The question is whether the Union is to be made responsible for them or not.




The "blackings" at Liverpool were called for by a shop stewards committee. This is a joint committee composed of 6 dock workers and 6 lorry drivers. It was not up because the interests of dock workers may sometimes conflict with the interests of lorry drivers. So the shop stewards themselves formed a joint committee to settle any differences.


This joint committee has been much concerned with the container issues. In Febuary 1972 the committee drew up a form of agreement. They wanted it to be signed by haulage companies which brought goodsinto the docks. It was also to be signed by the Union. It provided that the haulage company was not to stuff or strip containers "without prior consultation with the appropriate officer of the Union": and was to pay the lorry drivers' wages at the union scale, and so forth. It contained a term that it was not legally enforceable but binding in honour only. This agreement had the support of Mr. Tickle, a full-time officer of the Union. He took the chair at meetings on 10 and 17th February 1972, when it was put before 7 or 8 haulage firms for signature. Some of the road haulage firms did, then or later, sign the form of agreement: but others did not.


In the first fortnight of March 1972, the shop stewards' committee went further, they issued a "Special Notice": "Port Container Traffic". It was prepared in the office of the Union at Liverpool. It was headed: "Transport and General Workers Union". It was designed for distribution to drivers of lorries for road haulage firms. It called on them to support the claim of the dock workers and announced a campaign to start from Monday 20 March 1972. It stated; "The Merseyside Joint Committee of Dock Workers and Road Transport Workers request your full support in a campaign scheduled to operate from Monday 20th March 1972."


The campaign was this. The drivers wereto get their employers to sign the agreement with the Union. If their employers agreed to it, the driver's union card would be over-stamped with an...

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