Dockers Fire Warning Shot Across Europe's Bows
Dockers meeting at the ITF Maritime Roundtable in Casablanca issue 'Port Package Three' warning.
Leaders of dockers’ unions affiliated to the ETF (European Transport’ Workers’ Federation and the ITF (International Transport Workers’ Federation) met at the ITF Maritime Roundtable in Casablanca to explore the future of dock work in Europe. Their meeting followed an action and information day on 25th September 2012 that was intended to send a strong signal to the European Commission (EC) on the day it held a European ports policy review conference in Brussels.
On the same day, members of the Oficiaismar union in Portugal took part in a second national strike in protest at government proposals to relax employment regulations in the ports there.
Dockers’ union leaders at the Maritime Roundtable warned that the attack on Portuguese dock work is “the shape of things to come” and signals a concerted attempt by the European Commission to liberalise the port industry in Europe. This, they claimed, will result in an increase in casualisation, the erosion of trade union rights and a lowering of health and safety standards and conditions that dockers and their unions have fought to secure for over 100years.
Similar Europe-wide legislation, in the form of port packages one and two, were successfully defeated in 2003 and 2006 thanks to the defiance and solidarity of dockers around the world. According to the ETF and ITF it now seems that this same legislation is being forced through on a national basis, but with the same potential wide-ranging effects on dockers.
Chair of the ETF dockers’ section, Terje Samuelsen, said that: “Portugal can be considered as a laboratory for the European ports policy. Several measures put forward by the Portuguese government correspond perfectly to the proposals that can be expected across Europe. We have seen this before in port packages one and two. We defeated it then and we will defeat it now”.
Marc Loridan, dockers’ leader of the BTB union, warned the Belgian and Portuguese governments and the European Commission that dockers around the world “are ready to discuss this but watch out - if you want a war with the European dockers’ unions, we are ready to fight”.
ITF president and dockers’ section chair Paddy Crumlin said that this type of deregulation of standards and employment protection would not be countenanced by the world dockers’ movement. “In a global industry maintenance of standards and trade union rights is a global issue, not just a national or regional one,” he stated.