The Big Blue: Snapshots of the 1951 Waterfront Lockout

The Big Blue: Snapshots of the 1951 Waterfront Lockout

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In working-class parlance a ‘blue’ was the colloquial term for an industrial disruption – a strike or a lockout. The 1951 waterfront lockout was, up until that time, the biggest ‘blue’ of them all and still holds attention today as a seminal event in New Zealand’s industrial and political history.

The 1951 lockout, which lasted for 151 days, was the culmination of events that had their geneses in industrial and political activity stretching back 60 years and helped shape the pattern of industrial relations in New Zealand for the following 40. It had a major impact on the history of trade unions and the progressive left in New Zealand. 

This anthology is the result of a seminar, run by the Trade Union History Project in February 2001, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the lockout. It presents 1951 from a range of insights and approaches not previously explored. These include the experience of women and the families of waterside workers, the clandestine activities of the dissenters, the perspective of union leaders who took part in the lockout as young men, and that of government officials and one major political figure. These accounts highlight the propinquity and emotion that came with first-hand experience of the conflict.

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Tags: History