A downturn in bulk trade through the port of Limerick means dockers face a bleak future.

At 8.00 am each morning, dockers in Limerick line up to be selected for a day's work in a procedure known as 'jobbing the dockers'. If you are not selected, you join the dole queue. This treatment of dockers may be traditional but it is humiliating and degrading. 

These men have walked or cycled miles in the hope of work.

One hundred and sixty men came looking for work unloading a fertiliser boat but only forty got the job. The trouble at Limerick Port is that there are too many dockers and not enough work. 

Earlier this year, the Limerick Steamship Company merged into Hibernian Transport.

Limerick has priced itself out of the general cargo traffic with handling costs eight times more expensive than at Waterford.  If the port is to be competitive again in the future, the number of dockers must be reduced to a pool of around sixty. This will mean redundancies but how many will be affected is not known as there is no official registry of dockers. The number is estimated to be around three hundred. However, dockers hold their cards for life so some of those on the books could be working elsewhere. 

Stephen Coughlan TD and Mayor of Limerick describes the plight of the dockers and is angered by the poor treatment they receive and the lack of security of employment. 

You go home. I want you. You go home.

According to Captain WJ Knight of the Harbour Board, the Board has concentrated investment on the provision of facilities for the port users rather than the protection of the employment rights of the workers. However, there is not much point in having top of the range port facilities if there is no cargo.

This episode of 'Seven Days' was broadcast on 12 December 1969. The reporter is Bill O'Herlihy.