'Three on the hook and three on the book': dock labourers and unemployment insurance between wars

Davies, Sam
December 1994
Labour History Review (Maney Publishing);Winter94, Vol. 59 Issue 3, p34
Academic Journal
The article examines the effects of the introduction of state unemployment insurance on one group of workers, dock labourers, in Great Britain, and in turn to reflect on how the impact of the scheme affected these workers attitudes to state welfare. The initial response of dock labourers to the extension of the 1911 National Insurance scheme to include their industry was hostile. The 1916 plan of registration and compulsory unemployment insurance for dockers aroused great suspicion. A system designed to deal with workers normally in regular employment was perceived as being punitive to casually-employed workers. The dockers' fears of the unemployment insurance scheme were to be allayed by the practical application of the system. With the advent of long-term mass unemployment from 1920, the state was forced to relax the sound actuarial principles of 1911. Uncovenanted benefit was introduced on a discretionary basis, to be followed by various other forms of unearned benefit in the 1920's and 1930's. The maximum number of weeks allowed to claim benefit rose from fifteen to twenty-six in a year in 1923. In 1928, entitlement to benefit was allowed for any worker who had made thirty contributions to the fund in the previous two years.


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