Old myths revealed and one puzzle solved about the history of dock workers and ports

Recent research by Jesper Hamark, University of Gothenburg, uncovers two myths: that dock workers are more strike-prominent than other groups and that the productivity in the harbour of Gothenburg decreased before the container. Not only is two myths revealed, but a puzzle is also solved by Jesper Hamark – how Swedish exports continued during the 1909 General Strike, despite the fact that also dock workers laid down their tools.

So, dock workers are not more strike-prominent than other groups – which recently disserted Jesper Hamark shows.
- Rather was dock workers position in the industry the reason for why dock workers appear to strike more often than others. Most parts of the society was, and still is, dependent on the functions of the dock, why a strike at the dock could have tremendous consequences for the entire society, says Jesper Hamark.

Furthermore, the productivity in all harbours did not decrease before the use of the container.  By using two new measurement techniques for productivity, Jesper Hamark shows that productivity in the harbour in Gothenburg was relatively slow but positive, and not negative as previously thought when measuring other similar harbours.
- Productivity change is measured in two ways: first, as gross output in stevedoring and, second, as value of cargo, both in relation to working hours. It seems reasonable that these ways of measuring will show that similar development occurred in other harbours; especially since the harbour in Gothenburg can be seen as a “regular” harbour, says Jesper Hamark.

From two myths to a puzzle – how could Swedish export continue despite striking dock workers 1909? The answer by Jesper Hamark spells seamen.
- Swedish seamen were poorly unionized – an excellent condition for strikebreaking – and employers used the Law of the Sea to force enrolled seamen to do the work of striking dock workers. Strikebreaking in the ports probably had a decisive outcome on the entire conflict, says Jesper Hamark.

Jesper Hamark.