D-Day for port workers' protest

PORT WORKERS will find out today if their protests have succeeded in stopping new job-threatening EU laws.The signs though do not look good – with European Parliament officials saying that many of the near-200 amendments to the bill are "inadmissible".

By RICHARD CORNWELL

Felixstowe editor

richard.cornwell@eveningstar.co.uk

PORT WORKERS will find out today if their protests have succeeded in stopping new job-threatening EU laws.

The signs though do not look good – with European Parliament officials saying many of the near-200 amendments to the bill are "inadmissible".

They claim the changes have already been generally accepted by European governments and will improve quality of service to port users, efficiency and flexibility, and reduce port costs.

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But union shop stewards from Felixstowe are not convinced and yesterday joined tens of thousand of port workers from across Europe at the Place du Luxembourg in Brussels for a demonstration and to lobby MEPs.

Along with their convenor Geordie Landles, they spoke to politicians to try to persuade them to drop the main part of the proposed law.

The legislation, described as the "potentially most damaging" changes to ports for decades, would force ports to open many internal services to competition, including quayside loading and unloading operations.

If stevedoring was put out to tender, it could mean all port workers being forced to work for new and separate companies for possibly less pay, or more than 2,000 job losses with new companies bringing in their own workforces.

There could be two or more different companies employing people to handle containers and people only being required to work when ships were on berth.

The bill also proposes that some ships' crews could unload their own vessels – and the fact that they could not speak English would, apparently, not matter.

A spokesman for the European Transport Workers' Federation said the proposals were totally unacceptable and if adopted would cause social unrest which would last for long time.

"It would degenerate the working conditions of port workers, threaten their employment, jeopardise their health and safety, slash their vocational training and weaken their skills. Subsequently, it would harm the quality of the service provided to port users, introducing substandard ports," said the spokesman.

Dockers representatives of unions from Portugal, Spain, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Finland, UK, Sweden, Greece, Cyprus and Malta took part in the demo.

Today the European Parliament's regional policy, transports and tourism committee will discuss the amendments and vote on the second reading.

Felixstowe TGWU convenor Geordie Landles believes that if the law is adopted it will mean men having to queue at the port gates every day to see if they have work – as in the old days – or wait to be called in on mobile phones.

The union has grave concerns about training and skills if workers come from different companies or are made into casual staff.

WEBLINKS

portoffelixstowe.co.uk

European Transport Workers' Federation – www.itf.org.uk

European Union – www.europa.eu.int

Transport and General Workers' Union – www.tgwu.org.uk

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