Jubilation as port jobs are saved

By Richard SmithTHOUSANDS of jobs at East Anglian ports have been saved after a crucial vote stopped a new European law being made.Three years of debate ended in the European Parliament yesterday when the controversial port services directive was defeated by a narrow margin.

By Richard Smith

THOUSANDS of jobs at East Anglian ports have been saved after a crucial vote stopped a new European law being made.

Three years of debate ended in the European Parliament yesterday when the controversial port services directive was defeated by a narrow margin.

If it had been approved, the directive would force ports to open many internal services to competition - including cargo handling and allowing ships' crews to unload vessels.


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The proposal was defeated by 229 votes to 209 and as it was the third time that MEPs had been asked to approve the directive, it cannot be brought back before the European Parliament.

Workers at Felixstowe and Harwich ports were delighted with the result.

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Geordie Landles, Transport and General Workers Union convenor at Felixstowe, said: “This is the best Christmas present we could have received.

“We have worked very hard for the last two years in identifying the problems that would have affected European ports if this had become legislation.

“It would have been bad news and the dock workers did not want to see unskilled and untrained labour working in the port.”

At Felixstowe port, the biggest fear was a proposal for docks to take part in compulsory competitive tendering.

Port workers would have worked for new and separate companies for possibly less pay, or there could have been more than 2,000 job losses with new companies bringing in their own workforces.

At present, all port workers at Felixstowe are employed by the port's owners, Hutchison Whampoa.

Richard Howitt, an MEP for the East of England, who has led the opposition to the proposal, said jobs would have been threatened by allowing foreign ship crews to load and unload their own cargo.

“It is a tremendous result. This was the day of reckoning and I did not know which way the vote would go,” he added.

“I am really relieved because hundreds of people in my constituency would have lost their jobs and the directive would have been bad for safety in ports.”

richard.smith@eadt.co.uk

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