7th July 1970

A general strike brings Jersey to a standstill

Locals and visitors alike were facing uncertainty as council workers in all sectors followed the lead of refuse workers, and downed tools until the States of Jersey agreed to a pay rise.

Two days later, The Times reported that already “refuse is piling up in the streets of St Helier… today a whole range of government workers, including harbour crane operators, pierhead controllers, disposal plant worker, security officers, drivers and tradesmen downed tools. Even gravediggers are reported to have come out on strike and the local evening newspaper said tonight that the Union Jack had not been raised at Fort Regent for the first time since 1945”.

State of emergency

Less than a week after the strikes began, a state of emergency was declared, giving the States control over the food, water and electricity supply, and powers to restrict movement if necessary. Representatives from the States flew to London to discuss the situation with the Home Office. In return, union leaders from the mainland flew to Jersey for talks with the States.

By the time the dispute was settled on 12 July, more than 1000 workers had been protesting for higher pay and, although they did get a rise, it wasn’t by as much as they’d been hoping. Neither did it match what similar jobs were paying on the mainland.

The breakthrough couldn’t have come any later: on the mainland, dock workers were gearing up for their own strike, while Jersey was running short of food, as fresh supplies that had been sent to the island during its own strike had either been turned away or left to rot in the holds of their cargo ships. Dockers on the mainland therefore worked overtime to get new boats loaded with fresh supplies to send over before they downed their own tools at the start of a decade that would become known for its industrial discontent.


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