Southend Corporation Transport
The 1967 Strike
This page has been adapted from Richard Delahoy's book, Southend Corporation Transport, Trams, Trackless and Buses. Copyright Richard Delahoy 1986.
Industrial action has fortunately been comparatively rare in Southend, with only occasional short lived disputes and of course the General Strike of 1926. By far the most serious dispute was the bitter five and a half week strike in the winter of 1967. The dispute started after a breakdown in national negotiations led the TGWU to instruct municipal busmen to ban overtime and the carriage of standing passengers. This action could be expected to have a considerable effect in Southend (a shortage of crews meant that there was a heavy reliance on overtime) but the decision to start the industrial action was not implemented for some weeks, giving the Corporation management time to prepare themselves. The overtime ban came into effect on Friday November 3 and immediately management acted by turning over operation of the 17, which then ran from Temple Sutton to Eastwood, to Super Coaches of Upminster; seven private coaches were also hired with drivers for schools contracts. This action was seen by the union as deliberate provocation and the dispute escalated into an all out strike the following Monday, the 7th. Eastern National's local crews then came out in sympathy and the longer distance EN routes turned short at the coordination boundary.
The Corporation management reacted immediately to restore a skeleton service. Non union and office staff crewed a few SCT buses, and the Lowlanders were hastily adapted for OMO (driver only operation had been legalised for double deckers in July 1966) - which in the case of these buses was pay as you leave, with no tickets or change given. Many independent operators were approached to provide vehicles with crews, and every day more and more buses and coaches of every size and colour appeared, until there were about 25 independent vehicles in use everyday! Destinations were shown by yellow and black cards and the normal Setright ticket machines were used. In addition to the hired buses, Southend took on volunteer crews and were eventually able to put another 25 buses on the road from their own fleet. A service was maintained on all the main routes which the Corporation normally operated (but not over EN routes, except for the hospital X90 service) and duplicated timetables - 11 issues in all, plus one Sunday version - were produced. Often they were only current for one or two days as the arrival of more buses enabled the service to be increased. Eventually about two thirds of the normal revenue was being taken.
In many ways it was a very sad time for the undertaking, affecting morale for a long time afterwards. Feelings ran high with mass meetings, marches, an emergency full Council meeting and finally intervention by Harold Wilson's Minister of Labour, Ray Gunter. On Canvey shots were even fired at buses! The introduction of private buses was undoubtedly a major factor in the dispute, but it is also likely that the union were seeking to make a stand in Southend for the Chairman of the Council's Transport Committee, Norman Harris, also chaired the municipal employers federation at the time. From the enthusiasts standpoint it was a period of unparalleled excitement with an incredible array of vehicles - no one knew quite what would turn up the next day!
The crews eventually agreed to return to work and the strike ended on Sunday December 17.

Many thanks to Richard Delahoy for his kind permission to include textual extracts from his book in this site.
©1986-2003 Richard Delahoy and ©1961-2003 SCT61 Pages. All Rights Reserved.

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