Rice Ernie


Ernie Rice

Rice was born in the 1920s. Later being married with a family, he was a Londondocker at Royal Docks. Rice was described by some as Jack Dash’s right hand man, not only an asset as a comrade but also his “indefatigable organiser who ran welfare funds and established a sickness scheme before the employers developed such schemes”. (Dockers – David Wilson)

Dash described Rice as “short of stature but tough”. However, Dash pointed out Rice’s health was poor due to him working in the refrigerated holds of meat carrying ships.

Rice developed the Royal Group wall newspaper, according to Dash “staying up half the night, working with coloured pens to produce posters with vividly presented factual information concerning agreements, sick pay, severance pay, decasualisation and all manner of other subjects of vital concern. These posters are eagerly studied by the rank and file, creating tremendous discussions.”

After the Second World War, the Communist Party had been at the forefront of establishing rank and file organization in the docks. The unofficial London Portworkers’ Committee, later known as London Docks’ Liaison Committee, was led by Wally Jones. These port unofficial committees organised into a National Portworkers’ Committee in the early 1950s with its aims outlined in the Dockers Charter, which initially comprised of the following demands 40 hour a week, a daily minimum wage of 25 shillings, a fortnights paid holiday, pension scheme, end to casual labour

In 1968 in the election for stewards at the Royal Docks, Communist party members Jack Dash, Buck Baker, Ted Kirby, Danny Lyons and Ernie Rice were all elected. Their fellow stewards refused to see them excluded from office and resigned en masse when the Dock Group Committee tried to enforce the TGWU ban on Communists holding office.

As a result of the stand off, a typical TGWU compromise was worked out, it being decreed that the ban need not apply so long as Communist stewards did not take office on constitutional union committees and, in this way, the stewards effectively breached the ban.

Main source: Good Morning Brothers! – Jack Dash

Michael Walker

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