Portworkers' jobs saved

HUNDREDS of portworkers' jobs at Felixstowe and Ipswich were saved today – after Euro MPs threw out changes which could have ruined many families' futures.

HUNDREDS of portworkers' jobs at Felixstowe and Ipswich were saved today – after Euro MPs threw out changes which could have ruined many families' futures.

Quayside workers had been on tenterhooks as they waited for a vote in the European Parliament to see if what union bosses called the "potentially most damaging" changes to ports for decades would go ahead.

But MEPs voted 229 to 209 vote against the new laws, which campaigners hailed as a resounding victory for jobs and safety in the ports.

Speaking from Strasbourg immediately after the vote, Suffolk and Essex Labour Euro MP Richard Howitt, who has led opposition to the proposals, said it was a great victory.


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"The bill is now dead in the water – it cannot be brought back again," he said.

"Hundreds of jobs have been saved in Felixstowe, Ipswich and Harwich. People say that you cannot win anything in Europe but we have shown that by working with MEPs from other countries you can win the argument."

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Campaigners worked for three years to thwart the controversial port services directive to force ports to open many internal services to competition, including cargo handling, and even to allow ships' crews to unload vessels.

Unions feared the directive would send UK ports backwards to the bad old days of casual labour, and put health and safety at risk.

Labour MEPs defied Tony Blair and his government to vote against the directive when it had its third and final vote today.

Mr Howitt said: "These proposals would have been a recipe for foreign ship owners to use untrained, poorly paid crew to replace high quality dock workers' jobs in Felixstowe and Harwich.

"I roundly condemn Conservatives who welshed on our parliamentary victory earlier this year to try to force these proposals back through.

"But by working with MEP colleagues from ports across Europe, common sense has prevailed, and the entire legislation is voted down for good.

"I'd like to thank the Transport and General Workers union in particular, as well as Hutchison Ports, who have been fully involved throughout what has been a hugely successful European wide campaign."

At Felixstowe, the biggest fear were the proposals for ports to take part in compulsory competitive tendering, which would mean portworkers 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 have been two or more different firms employing people to handle containers and people only being required to work when ships were on berth instead of all being employed by the port owners.

TGWU convenor Geordie Landles said it would take the men back to when they had to queue at the gates to see if they would have work, or wait for their mobile phones to ring to see if they will be needed.

 

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