The promulgation in 1960 of a new Industrial Relations Ordinance in Aden was a singular event in the history of British decolonisation because it made many forms of strike action illegal. Earlier initiatives to liberalise trade union law in the colonies were intended to channel and manage the discontent of workers; but for nationalist movements, the new order in industrial relations provided an opportunity to mobilise workers in the cause of independence. Aden, which was the location of a significant British base, a major oil refinery and a key commercial port, became the site of a bitter confrontation between the nascent trade union movement and the colonial administration. Three aspects of the conflict were of particular significance. First, Aden’s unique political status as a British colony in the Arab world and it strategic and economic value, contributed to the fractious industrial relations environment. Secondly, conflicts between workers and the colonial government demonstrate continuity with wider British efforts to suppress anti-colonial dissent and demonstrate that charges of appeasement in the last years of empire are not well founded. Lastly, the exceptional nature of the new legislation attracted the critical attention of the ILO and the major international trade union confederations, which internationalised the dispute over the IRO. An examination of the manner in which the British government sought to regulate its relations with various labour organisations, including the British TUC, the colonial ATUC and the two rival international labour confederations of the WFTU and ICFTU, demonstrates that the conduct of industrial relations in Aden was significant in the context of both the Cold War and decolonisation.
Mawby, S. (2016). Workers in the vanguard: the 1960 Industrial Relations Ordinance and the struggle for independence in Aden. Labor History, 57(1), 35-52. https://doi.org/10.1080/0023656X.2016.1140622