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North European dockers’ unions unite

Dockers’ trade unions encompassing all major North Sea ports are to set up the North Range Port Unions’ Coordination Board.
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The aim of the new Board is to “counter erosion of labour conditions or collective labour agreements from ongoing port automation, and jointly counter the consequences of overcapacity for port workers”.

With this joint approach, the six unions from five countries said they are staving off attempts to play individual ports against each other when terminal operators argue that this or that “deterioration” has been implemented in other ports, so needs to be generalised in order in this or that other port “in order to remain competitive.”

The Board’s members represent dockers from all seaports in the North Continent range, between Hamburg and Le Havre and in the UK. “The ports represented here today face similar challenges and so do their workers,” said Torben Seebold of German union ver.di at the inaugural meeting in Rotterdam last Thursday (27th August). “The unions in the North Range have a long-lasting history of solidarity.”

Anthony Tetard, deputy general secretary of CGT’s Fédération Nationale des Ports et Docks, said: “We will pay close attention to try to make agreements that raise the standards of dock workers and not allow employers to drive down the conditions of our members.”

Niek Stam, national secretary for Dutch Union FNV Havens, the two-day meeting’s hosts, dubbed the new Board a first in cross-border trade union work in Europe. “I don’t know of any sector having such a wide international co-operation,” he said. “It’s a new form of union work and is especially needed in Rotterdam.”

Referring specifically to container terminal operator DP World, the unions said they have agreed to support each other to overcome difficulties reaching labour agreements with DPW London Gateway – this is now high on the agenda, as the Dutch unions have reached agreement with DPW’s Rotterdam World Gateway “after a struggle”.

The six unions meeting in Rotterdam were ACV Transcom, BTB-ABVV (both Belgium), Syndicat des Dockers du Port du Havre (France), ver.di (Germany), FNV Havens (Netherlands) and Unite (UK).

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