Port workers paid to stay at home

SITTING at home for weeks on end, gardening and watching TV and getting paid �25,000 a year - nice work if you can get it.That's been the situation for portworkers known as “floaters” recruited to be on standby for when Britain's busiest container terminal needed them urgently to cope with its huge workload.

WHILE millions are worried about the future of their jobs, some Suffolk workers have found the recession has left them earning �25,000 a year while sitting at home.

Some Felixstowe portworkers, known as floaters, are recruited to be on standby for when things get busy - but with the downturn in world trade recently, they have been collecting their salaries without having to go anywhere near the port.

However port bosses today insisted that the number of floaters has been cut significantly as full-time workers expressed anger that they are facing pay cuts while others are still paid to stay at home.

Port chiefs say the number of floaters has decreased dramatically in the past few months but would not give figures.

It is understood that an offer earlier in the year of �10,000 to terminate workers' contracts, even if they had only been at the port a few months, has been taken up by many of them.

Others are now being placed on fixed-term work contracts to replace other full-timers who took voluntary redundancy.

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One quayside worker reckoned there had been 100 floaters, costing the port up to �50,000 a week.

“The port is overmanned because of these floating contract employees sitting at home on full pay,” he said.

“There have been rumours from some managers that some floaters haven't been to work for months.

“They now want us to take two days unpaid on top of losing all our bonuses and subsidies - this is apparently so floaters can come in and get some shifts at our expense.”

Head of corporate affairs Paul Davey said: “Following the recent voluntary redundancy programme, we have converted the majority of the floaters to fixed-term contracts.

“There are very few floaters left and only negligible unused floater hours so we have not got large numbers of people sitting at home doing nothing and being paid.”

The floaters had given the port flexibility to deal with its workload which had been crucial at peak times.

Through voluntary redundancy and temporary changes to pay and conditions, the port was doing all it could to retain staff and skills in which time and money had been invested ready for when the recession ends.

Are you a floater? Give us your view - write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk