Portworkers in pay vote

PORTWORKERS at Britain's biggest container terminal are today voting on changes to their working conditions and pay which bosses say are needed to help the dock fight off competition.

PORTWORKERS at Britain's biggest container terminal are today voting on changes to their working conditions and pay which bosses say are needed to help the dock fight off competition.

Management at Felixstowe - which itself is set to expand with a £250 million development project - are aware that other ports are trying to entice their customers and persuade them to leave.

Building work is set to start on the new massive container terminal at London Gateway, Southampton is pushing ahead with moves to increase capacity, and Bristol, Teesport and Liverpool have plans to increase deep-water capacity.

The Suffolk port says it must work smarter and more efficiently in order to keep current customers and attract more business in future - and that is why workers need to adopt new working practices.

Corporate affairs manager for the port, Paul Davey said the port's Contributing to a Secure Future project was looking ahead two to three years when there would be “new and very serious competition” for the terminal.

Mr Davey said: “We also know that these other ports are already talking to our main customers and would like them to transfer to London Gateway and other places.

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“We have looked at various aspects of how we work to see how we could work better to provide a more efficient service for our customers to minimise the risk that they will choose to locate away from the port in the future.

“The result is proposals for quite a number of changes to the way quite a number of people do their jobs.”

There had been wide-ranging consultation over the past 12 months with the workforce and union representatives to bring together a package of changes on which workers were now voting.

The ballot is being held by the Transport and General Workers' Union shop stewards and the result should be known next week.

There is no suggestion of any job cuts - in fact, the opposite is likely to happen with more people taken on in certain departments next year.

But the main aim is to make the staff more flexible and in future they could be deployed around any part of the 700-acre site on different tasks - sometimes moved to different work up to four times on a 12-hours shift, paid £10 extra for every change.

They are also being offered a bonus of about £1,000 for the first year of the collective agreement, with other bonuses in the years ahead.

Are you affected by the changes - do you think they are a good idea? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

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