Trade Unions warn Port Authorities

Jan 21, 2003
Author: Satawu

The following report and statement is published as received from the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and does not carry endorsement or comment by Ports & Ships. The statements are published in the interest of transparency and comment from readers is welcomed – to marked Union Warning.

Unions post strike warning

Mon, 20 Jan 2003

European ports strike on proposed unilateral work restructuring

Below please find information on a European-wide labour dispute in ports, which resulted in the first in a planned series of strikes on 17th January. The dispute is likely to affect the movement of goods to and from South Africa by sea.

SATAWU (SA Transport and Allied Workers' Union) fully supports the action of European port workers. The European Commission and European parliament are playing with fire in their attempts to unilaterally alter the organisation of work of port workers and seafarers. The changes will result in a deterioration in working conditions as well as of service to port users.

Our own government should also take heed. Its own unilateral approach to the restructuring of South Africa's ports will also not be tolerated. Government has since November last year been avoiding meeting Satawu at Nedlac to resolve major differences in approach. Scheduled meetings to address the dispute have been postponed on three occasions due to governments ‘unavailability’. Should government not come to the table within the next two weeks, Satawu will escalate the dispute and consider exercising its right to strike over the matter.

More details of the European dispute can be obtained from the European Transport Workers' Federation (details below) or the International Transport Workers Federation in London ph 09 44 207 4032733 or consult the ITF website,uk.

Jane Barrett, SA Transport and Allied Workers Union (affiliated to ITF)
phone 011-3336127 or 082-8278561

European dockers say no to ‘ports of convenience’

Media Release issued by the European Transport Workers' Federation
Brussels, 17 January 2003

The Secretary General of the ETF, Doro Zinke, has sent a solidarity message on behalf of European transport workers of all modes of transport to all European dockers who have turned today a new
page in the history of the trade union movement.

”With the actions which are taking place today across the European ports, dock workers have sent a clear message to all European decision makers. The Commission, the Member States and the members of the European Parliament must understand what is at stake with the proposed directive: it would degenerate the working conditions of port workers, threaten their employment, jeopardize their health and safety, slash their vocational training and weaken their skills.

Subsequently, it would harm the quality of the service provided to port users, introducing substandard ports,” Doro Zinke writes.

The action is also the proof that, independently of their affiliation, dockworkers are united in defence of their jobs and working conditions.

Reports of actions have been received from Portugal, Spain, France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Finland, Poland, Cyprus and Malta.

On 21 January, after assisting to the debate on the EP draft report on the proposed directive, the ETF will meet to evaluate the results of these actions and discuss further actions.

For further information, please contact the ETF Secretariat, Eduardo Chagas at or +32.2.2854660 or Doro Zinke +32.478.554703

Actions reported until 18.00, Friday 17th January 2003

BELGIUM: all four Belgian ports stopped work for 24 hours:
Antwerp, Gent, Zeebrugge and Oostende. There is a wide coverage from the media.

FINLAND: all ports are closed for 24 hours.

GERMANY: Hamburg: boycotts are taking place in all container terminals for 4 hours in each shift, trucks are queuing outside the port perturbing the traffic and thus giving the action more visibility;
Bremerhaven: stoppages are taking place in the major terminals. Seafarers onboard pilot boats stopped from 09.00 till 12.00. Work stoppages are taking place for several hours in different shifts in the following ports: Emden, Nordenham, Brake, Bremen, Lubeck.

THE NETHERLANDS: -Amsterdam, Flushing and Zeeland are on strike. In Rotterdam the two biggest bulk terminals are on strike, container terminals Hanno and Uniport are closed, some workers in ECT also stopped work. At the ECT Delta terminal the evening shift is on strike. Lashing workers are on strike. Media is closely following the action together with FNV officials.

SPAIN - the first day of actions in the Spanish ports registers a participation of almost 100%, with 24 hours stoppages. According to the last information, only Pasajes in the north and Almeria in the
south did not stop. Further actions will take place next week for 24 hours from 20 to 23 January.

CYPRUS - both ports in Cyprus, Larnaca and Limassol, are closed for 24 hours. Both unions gave a press conference with wide coverage from the media.

FRANCE - information still to be confirmed indicates an almost complete stop in French ports with exception of Dunkerke.

DENMARK - also to be confirmed: Copenhagen and Aarhus have stopped for 24 hours.

PORTUGAL - Lisbon: during the Plenary meeting the workers decided to stop for 24 hours! Other ports, including Madeira and the Azores, organised actions which varied from 2 to 4 hours.

MALTA - from 8 till 10 the port came to a standstill due to a union rally. New action will take place on 21 January for three hours in the evening.

SWEDEN - work will stop for three hours on 24 January.

UK - meetings with the workers will take place on 20 January in all major ports.

BBC Report: Dock strike hits European ports

A strike by dockworkers angry about a European Union plan to restructure cargo handling has hit several European ports. The 24-hour strike on Friday paralysed ports in Belgium and Finland and slowed down operations at ports in Germany and the Netherlands.

Dockers oppose EU proposals to allow shipping lines to organise their own port handling, without using local workers. Dock workers say this would threaten their jobs and safety.

Workers blocked all roads into the Belgian port of Antwerp - Europe's second biggest port - halting cargo handling.

It is our first signal and things may get worse said Eduardo Chagas, ETF official.

”It's a major outcry against liberalisation and privatisation,” said Bob Baete, spokesman for the Belgian federation of dockworkers.

But the strike had only a limited impact in Rotterdam - the world's biggest port - as only 200 out of 6,000 workers joined the protest, Reuters news agency reported.

Two terminals which handle coal and iron ore were affected, but other services continued as normal in Rotterdam.

The German services union Verdi said 5,000 port and ship workers went on strike at container terminals in Hamburg, Bremen and Bremerhaven.

More protests

Lloyds reported that 900 dockers at Canary Islands ports began a strike that would continue for three days from 20 January.

The European Transport Workers Federation (ETF) said dockers in some UK ports would strike on Monday and Swedish dockers would join the protest next Friday.

Greek Merchant Marine Minister George Anomeritis, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency until the end of June, said the new legislation was unlikely to be completed before the second half of 2003.

An ETF official, Eduardo Chagas, said dockworkers were worried about their jobs, but the new EU law would also “have an impact on safety and quality of service”.

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