Port defends Polish worker policy

AN Essex port company has rejected trade union claims that its proposals to employ Polish dockers were “exploitative”.The Harwich Dock Company said yesterdaythe plan to employ the foreign agency workers was not a cost-saving exercise.

AN Essex port company has rejected trade union claims that its proposals to employ Polish dockers were “exploitative”.

The Harwich Dock Company said yesterdaythe plan to employ the foreign agency workers was not a cost-saving exercise.

But the Transport and General Workers' Union (TGWU) has argued that taking on agency workers could pose “a threat to health and safety”.

Allan Binks , chairman of the dock company, said the union complaints “made a mountain out of a molehill”.


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He added: “Only about a quarter of dockers are agency staff and we are considering ways to move away from the agency system.”

Mr Binks explained the company had been unable to find enough skilled dockers locally and so had looked overseas for sailors who knew how to unload ships.

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“The Polish workers can provide the skills we need, but the workers could as easily come from Lithuania or Estonia,” he said.

The company had turned to foreign agency workers, he said, because the docks were especially busy at weekends and it would be “uneconomical” to keep those people on during the week.

Union officials claim the company will pay the Polish dockers at Polish rates of pay, which are lower than those in Britain.

TGWU spokesman, Victor Brazkiewicz, said: “We are not against the use of foreign labour, but these individuals are not treated as ordinary workers. If foreign agency dockers are paid less, then we will continue to oppose the company's course of action.”

Harwich MP Ivan Henderson and East of England MEP Richard Howitt yesterday met union officials and shop stewards from the company to discuss the proposal.

After the meeting, Mr Henderson said: “There is nothing wrong with recruiting labour from the European Union if workers cannot be recruited locally but this must not be done if it is used for the purposes of exploitation, or to drive down the conditions under which existing employees are working.”

Mr Howitt told the EADT earlier this week he would be bringing the matter to the attention of the European Parliament.

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