United over Shipowner Tactics

Attempts by shipowners to erode the pay and conditions of  Britain’s 10,000 port workers, as well as port safety standards, will be strongly resisted by Unite, the country’s largest union.

Unite sees the lobbying of the shipowners behind the proposed port services legislation from the European Commission which, the union says, would create ‘a concerted race to the bottom’.

Unite supports this week’s stance by the UK Major Ports Group (UKMPG), representing employers at such large ports as Felixstowe, Southampton and Tilbury, which recommended  “that the European parliament and the European Council once again reject this proposal in the interest of continued growth and job creation”.

Unite concerns centre on the ports directive which could allow shipowners to use their own crews to unload cargo and undermine UK port workers’ pay and conditions; and the technical and nautical regulations which would open up mooring, tug boats and pilots to ‘free for all’ competition – Unite is worried about safety standards and jobs if that happens.

Unite is lobbying the UK’s MEPs on this and is working with the European Transport Federation to block these ‘lowest common denominator’ plans.

Unite regional officer Ian Wood said: “We are in favour of jobs, high standards and health and safety and the ship owners, who want these proposals, favour lowering costs and no holes-barred competition.

“It is welcomed that the UKMPG, representing the dock owners, oppose these proposals, as it recognises that you can have quality standards and working conditions as well as an environment that creates growth and jobs.

“What the shipowners want is a race to the bottom – and Unite is going to strongly campaign against that direction of travel.”