Still a danger to port worker jobs

UNION leaders say there is still a danger portworkers' jobs could be at risk – because the European Commission could over-rule a new law passed this week.

UNION leaders say there is still a danger portworkers' jobs could be at risk – because the European Commission could over-rule a new law passed this week.

Geordie Landles, TGWU convenor at the Port of Felixstowe, said despite the amendments secured by MEPs, it was not the end of the fight to stop quayside workers' jobs being "contracted out".

The commission, which has already declared itself in favour of allowing more than one firm to employ workers at ports, could still pass its own directive.

"The commission has already stated that it wants a greater degree of freedom for the shipping lines and as far as portworkers are concerned, cargo and self-handling, it is all still up in the air," said Mr Landles.

"The commission could decide to over-rule the European Parliament and we have still got a lot of campaigning to do.

"So far the law has protected the port owners' assets, the infrastructure, quays and equipment from being taken over by contractors, but it has not yet protected the workforce.

Most Read

"There is still a danger cargo handling and discharge could be put out to contract and the union strongly disagrees with that and will continue to fight."

Union leaders fear that if jobs are "contracted out" to increase competition, this will mean more than 2,000 men having to queue at the port gates every day to see if they have work – as in the old days – or waiting to be called in on their mobile phones.

They also have grave concerns about training and skills if workers came from different companies or were made into casual staff.

The European Parliament passed the law by 391 votes to 141, and Suffolk and Essex Euro MP Richard Howitt claimed the amendments had "blown the legislation out of the water" and made it unworkable.

The threat by the EU Ports Directive to sanction the employment of unqualified workers to do the jobs of registered dockers provoked the biggest ever strike action by more than 20,000 European port workers in January.

The International Transport Workers' Federation and its European arm the ETF said today that the European Parliament's watering down of the directive was "a major step forward".

Kees Marges, secretary of the ITF's dock workers' section, said: "When this campaign against the directive first started in January 2001 we promised a major waterfront war in Europe.

"We've won a major battle but the war is not over yet – the European Parliament vote might not be accepted by the Council of Ministers."

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

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter