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Dockers' News

ETF Open letter to Transport Commissioner on the reality of port work

Today, 12 May 2017, the ETF Dockers’ Section has sent an open letter to EU Transport Commissioner Bulc to address its points of view on the reality of port work.

‘Already for many years the debate around port work in Europe has been tackled with a very dogmatic approach’ said ETF Dockers’ Chair Terje Fenn-Samuelsen.

‘Over the last decades port work has been evolving and port workers have been adapting to the changing face of the maritime industry.  It is high time for the European Commission to understand what the reality of port work is and to listen to the perspective of those who move Europe forward’ he continued.

He concluded by saying ‘We have just learned about that a new proposal for reforming port labour in Spain was adopted today. I would like to reiterate the full support of the ETF to our Spanish members in view of their efforts to achieve a reform that is fair to workers’.

The full content of the letter can be found here.


German maritime workers rallied in Hamburg to ask for fairer maritime jobs

Today, 3 April 2017 more than 1,000 German maritime workers rallied in Hamburg to ask for fairer maritime jobs.

The demonstration was called for by ETF/ITF affiliated union ver.di along with the Metalworkers’ union IGM, on the eve of the National Maritime Conference, a yearly event organised by the German Federal Government to discuss the state of the maritime economy with all major stakeholders.

"We are here to claim a future for our jobs" said Torben Seebold, ETF Dockers’ vice-chair and ver.di’s Maritime leader.

"Maritime employment is threatened by the economic crisis, by increasing automation, by unbalanced subsidies policies. We have concrete proposals for making the sector fairer to workers. In the next two days we will make sure that our voice is heard!

We are proud of having today the ETF, ITF and the unions from the North Range to back us. We need common answers to the common challenges we are facing.”

"You, German Dockers are the backbone of our movement"  ETF Dockers’ Chair Terje Samuelsen stated during the demonstration.

"You have a robust vision for the future of the port sector and of port employment, which is inspiring for all port workers in Europe."

During his speech Samuelsen also applauded the recent agreement between ver.di and EVAG/ELAG and on the fact that all cars passing through the port of Emden are lashed and unlashed by Dockers.  "This last win a clear signal of what dockers backed by strong unions can achieve!", he concluded.

BTB-ABVV’s Marc Loridan and FNV Havens’ Niek Stam also addressed the demonstration, stating their unions’ full support to ver.di’s claim.

"Attacks to our jobs are taking so many different forms and we are using all possible means to fight back, industrially and politically," declared Loridan.

"National and regional governments in the North range need to open their eyes on the consequences of automation and overcapacity on the economies of our coastal regions," stated Stam.

"The problems we are facing go beyond the national borders and the specific interest of each port. That is why we, Dockwokers, are acting in unity. Stop the war on workers!" he concluded.


ETF applauds rejection of liberalisation plan for Spanish port labour

Today 16 March 2017 the Spanish Parliament rejected the controversial Real Decreto-Ley presented by the government to liberalise port labour. This decision follows the infringement procedure opened by the European Commission and the consequential European Court of Justice’s judgement which ruled that the system currently in place is in breach of article 49 of the TFEU (Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union) on freedom of establishment.

“From the beginning of the dispute the Spanish unions have pleaded a negotiated reform, but the government arrogantly decided not to go for dialogue” commented ETF Dockers’ Chair Terje Samuelsen. “We praise the remarkable political work done by the Spanish unions as well as the support expressed by the labour movement worldwide”.

By marking the first defeat of this conservative government, dockers have confirmed their position at the forefront of the struggle for fair transport and for a more social Europe” ETF Secretary General Eduardo Chagas declared after the vote. “Their struggle is inspiring for all fellow transport workers in Europe. We are very proud of them! Hopefully this is the last attempt of the Spanish government to plan unilateral and dogmatic reforms of port labour”.

In their recently issued joint statement the Spanish social partners have requested the government to engage in tripartite negotiations. However, the government has not yet responded to this request which makes it unclear what strategy the government will pursue.


ETF-ITF-IDC Statement on the situation in Spanish ports

The ETF, ITF and IDC have joined forces to support Spanish dockworkers whose jobs are at risk because of attempts to reform the port labour system.

The three organizations have been working together since the opening of an EU infringement procedure on freedom of establishment in ports against Spain back in 2013. Two weeks ago, the Spanish Government unilaterally presented a Royal Decree on the reform, disregarding the result of previous negotiations between social partners. Consequently the three organizations have engaged in a series of actions to support the struggle of the Spanish dockers. Among these, an action day was planned for the 10 March 2017, to coincide with the strike called by the Spanish unions on the same day.

“Following discussions with our respective members, our three organizations have decided to temporarily suspend the announced day of action. The Spanish unions are making another attempt to see if they can succeed with negotiations and political influence, and we fully respect this decision. Our actions are meant to support them and we are obviously ready to rework our solidarity plans to meet the needs of their revised strategy.” said ETF Dockers’ Section Chair Terje Samuelsen.

The three organizations and their members in Europe and around the world are maintaining all their political actions to support our Spanish Comrades.

Jordi Aragunde, IDC General Coordinator added “We are certainly not dropping our guard: we are all very busy supporting members in Spain. Our aim is to support them gaining the right to a fair reform of port labour. They are not opposing the reform, but some of the terms set by the government are not acceptable: we are convinced port labour can be reformed without the need for huge job losses and replacing stable employment with precarious jobs.

Paddy Crumlin, ITF President and Dockers’ Section Chair concluded “The global dockers’ and transport workers’ family will continue to demonstrate tremendous support to the Spanish dockers. This is an emblematic struggle against dogmatic liberalization of labour, and it affects the labour movement as a whole. We are following the developments in Spain very closely and are ready to support the struggle through any lawful means.”


More on the Organisations

The European Transport Workers' Federation

The European Transport Workers' Federation (ETF) is a Pan-European trade union organization which embraces transport trade unions of the European Union, the European Economic Area and the countries of Eastern Europe. The ETF represents more than 3.5 million transport workers from over 230 trade unions and 41 European countries in the following sectors: railway, road transport and logistics, shipping, inland waterways, civil aviation, ports and docks, tourism and fishing.

The International Transport Workers' Federation

The International Transport Workers 'Federation (ITF) is an international federation of transport workers' unions. Any independent trade union with members in the transport industry can be a member of the ITF. About 700 unions representing over 4.5 million transport workers in 150 countries are members of the ITF. It is one of several federations that make up the International Trade Union Confederation (CSI). ITF headquarters is in London and has offices in Amman, Brussels, Nairobi, New Delhi, Ouagadougou, Rio de Janeiro, and Tokyo.

The International Dockworkers Council


The International Dockworkers Council (IDC) is a global trade union confederation formally founded in Santa Cruz de Tenerife in 2000. It currently brings together more than 85,000 dockworkers on five continents, and works to defend workers and their jobs through training and continuous improvement of their working conditions. Headquartered in Barcelona, Spain, the IDC is organized into six areas (Europe, Africa, Western North America and Pacific Coast, East Coast of North America, Oceania and Latin America), each with a coordinator appointed by assembly.


ETF Executive Committee backs Spanish Dockers' struggle as EU Port Social Dialogue is put on hold

Today the ETF Executive Committee (EC) adopted a resolution expressing full support to its affiliates, FeSMC-UGT and FSC-CCOO, and to all Spanish Dockers in their struggle to fight wild liberalisation of port labour.

“This struggle concerns all transport workers. We are extremely worried about the contents of the proposed reforms as well as by the way the governement is proceeding, ignoring the solutions put forward by social partners. This goes against all basic principles to build fair transport in Europe. Today we clearly state  our determination to provide the support of our 3.5 million-workers-strong organisation to the Spanish dockers, no matter how long this dispute lasts” said ETF President Lars Lindgren

The endorsement by the ETF Executive Committee comes the day after the workers’ delegation has put on hold the European social dialogue in the port sector.

“We acknowledge the fact that since its establishement, back in 2013, our sectoral social dialogue committee (SSDC) has made substantial progress on meaningful issues for the sector”, said ETF’s spokesperson in the SSDC Monique Verbeeck. “In the current political framework it is however impossible for us, as representatives of port workers in Europe, to be part in an EU-wide dialogue while social dialogue in Spain is being disregarded".


To full declaration of the ETF and the SSDC meeting is avalable here.


Government ‘sabotage’ forces Spanish dockers’ unions to strike

The ITF and the ETF, along with their members FSC CCOO and FESMC UGT, condemn the Spanish government’s refusal to be part of the negotiations in the dispute over port labour reform, as the dockworkers’ unions announce strikes from 6 March.  

The unions had agreed to suspend strikes planned for 20, 22 and 24 February following the announcement on 15 February that the presentation of a royal decree on the reforms would be postponed so that negotiations could take place between unions and employers, with government mediation. 

The negotiations began on 21 February between the Spanish employers’ association, ANESCO, and the unions and will resume on 28 February.  The unions have reported on the government’s ‘anti-democratic stance…which has sabotaged’ the talks. Today the government has presented the royal decree for approval by the council of ministers despite the ongoing negotiations. The unions describe the proposed law as ‘harmful to the Spanish port industry and extremely damaging to the legitimate rights of workers’.  It also ignores agreements reached only recently between ANESCO and the unions. 

ETF dockers’ section chair Terje Samuelsen said: “This law seeks to aggressively and destructively liberalise the port labour market and goes even beyond what is required to put the system in line with EU rules. If our unions are forced to strike, we will support them and join forces with all other trade unions representing dockers.”

ITF president Paddy Crumlin commented that the federations had hoped the government would see sense and reach an agreement with the unions and that instead it had lost the unions’ trust. He added that the dockworkers would not let these callous and dangerous reforms be steamrollered through and pledged that the ITF family would continue to back them. 

Many ITF/ETF unions have already shown their support for the Spanish dockers, and the federations are repeating their joint call for all their unions who organise dockers to send a letter to the Spanish infrastructure ministry, pledging to ‘take any lawful action that may be required to support the Spanish dockers’ if the government does not act. 

Read more: Show urgent solidarity for Spanish dockers and Spanish port plans ‘beyond belief’.


Global support for Spanish dockers facing unilateral labour reform

The Spanish government is determined to pursue a unilateral reform of the port labour scheme thereby ignoring the proposals made by the social partners. Following a call from ETF and ITF, unions from all over the globe have sent protest letters to the Spanish minister for public works, calling for an immediate halt of the legislative process and urging to get back to the negotiating table with the social partners.

The reform of the Spanish law on port labour is required by a judgement of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) from December 2014 that sanctions the labour scheme as being non-compliant with the principle of the Freedom of Establishment (Article 49 of the TFEU). Yesterday, 14 February, the social partners met the Minister for a last attempt to reopening the negotiating table and avoid industrial action.

José Manuel Perez-Vega Artime, Federal Secretary for maritime and ports from FEMCT-UGT, explained that “The way the government is proceeding is unacceptable. The reform was on the table for so long, but the neither the present nor the previous governments have ever meant to engage in a meaningful dialogue. They are trying to put us in the corner, hiding behind the fines that are being applied by the Commission for not having implemented what required by the judgement. However, dismissing the current Dockers, as the government is planning to, would cost as much as paying the EU fines for more than eight years. It was clear from the start of the meeting yesterday that the Minister is determined to go his way ”.

“We are following very closely the developments in Spain along with our affiliates FSC-CCOO and FESMC-UGT,” said ETF General Secretary Eduardo Chagas. “This is the Port Packages coming through the backdoor. It is a crucial struggle not only for Dockers but for all transport workers in Europe. The proposal from the Spanish government contains very worrying elements that would open up Spanish ports to social dumping. This goes against all principles that the ETF and its affiliates are promoting to make transport in Europe fair. We will be standing by our affiliates and all Spanish Dockers with any lawful means we have.”

Jorge Garcia Faerna from FSC.CCOO, who is also Vice-Chair of the ETF Dockers’ Section declared “The outstanding international support we are receiving makes us stronger. After yesterday’s meeting with the Minister we have no choice but to take industrial action. There are other possible ways to bring the Spanish legislation in line with EU rules, but the government was just not willing to explore them. The propaganda that was spread around about the Spanish Dockers’ terms and conditions just shows how desperate this government is to get rid of us." He concluded "One thing is clear, we are not giving up and will continue our fight at political and industrial level."

The Royal Decree-Law is likely to be approved by the Council of Ministers on Friday 17 February. The government will then have one month to get it adopted by the Congress by simple majority. In case no majority is reached, there will be the possibility for the members of parliament to table amendments.

ETF/ITF and its affiliates are currently planning actions to support the Spanish Dockers.


Lashing campaign progresses - Port Regulation is adopted

FNV Havens holds its first Lashing Seminar

Dockers and their union leaders from ports across the Netherlands met in Rotterdam on Wednesday 18 January to launch a national lashing campaign in the framework of the ITF/ETF campaign to claim lashing. A packed seminar room committed to the objectives of the campaign, notably fighting politically, legally and industrially to ensure that in all ports lashing is done by Dockers. Participants also listened with interest to speakers including Terje Samuelsen-Fenn from NTF and Chair of the ETF Dockers’ Section, Torben Seebold from ver.di and Vice-Chair of both ETF and ITF Dockers’ Section, Niek Stam and Ed van der Hoek from FNV Havens, ITF Inspectors and ITF & ETF representatives. Participants worked on commencing plans to develop the campaign in the Netherlands and communicate closely with Dockers in other countries struggling with the same issue.

Niek Stam, leader of FNV Havens said: ”I am very happy with today’s event. There were some good ideas that came out of this workshop and things that we can get started on. The message to Dockers is: Let’s build strong networks in the terminals between lashers, dockers’ gangs and employers and let everyone know we are fighting for our jobs.”

More workshops are scheduled for the coming months in other European countries, notably Sweden, as unions make preparations for a strong and successful campaign. To find out more:

ETF and ITF meet with Unifeeder

Following a well-attended demonstration at Unifeeder headquarters last December, representatives from 3F (Denmark), ver.di (Germany), ETF and ITF met with Unifeeder in Copenhagen.

At the end of the meeting Torben Seebold, vice-chair of the ETF and ITF Dockers’ Sections stated ‘We have exchanged our respective positions, which remain quite different. The impression we have is that Unifeeder’s main concern was to emphasise that as a charterer it has not direct contractual relation with the seafarers or with their unions, and that therefore other actors in the chain should be targeted by our campaign. For us, all involved parties have a role in pushing for cost reduction and, consequently, self-handling. For this reason, we are, first of all, seeking dialogue with each and every actor in the chain.

He concluded by saying that ‘We have taken note of Unifeeder’s availability to engage in a possible dialogue that involves also other parties. In the meantime, we are pursuing our industrial and political campaign and are determined to achieve the results our members are asking for’.

Council of the EU adopts Port Regulation

On 23 January the Council of the EU adopted the Port Regulation, concluding a process that lasted for more than three-and-a-half years.

‘We take the opportunity of this final vote to reiterate our views on the regulation and on the EU port policy in general, which we expressed in December after the vote in the Parliament', stated ETF Dockers’ Section Chair Terje Samuelsen-Fenn. ‘In particular, we would like to support the statements delivered by Germany, Poland, Belgium, France and Italy before the vote, on the need to ensure coherence between the Regulation and other legal acts, in particular with the revision of the General Block Exemption Regulation (GBER)’ he concluded. .

The vote by the Council was the last step of the legislative process. The Regulation will be signed by the Council and Parliament mid-February and published in the EU Official Journal a few weeks later. It will enter into force 20 days after its publication.


Dockers’ right to work attacked in Norway

The Norwegian Supreme Court has judged that a boycott of Holship, a freight and logistics company operating in Norwegian ports, was illegal. It considered the action, preventing the company to use own employees for loading and unloading cargo, to be in breach with the provision in the European Economic Area (EEA) agreement on freedom of establishment. The court ruling thereby defined that the EEA agreement takes precedent over ILO Convention 137 on Dock Work and that the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) in Norwegian ports is unlawful.

Convention 137 of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), ratified by Norway, secures dockers’ work, salary and terms and conditions and defines that no worker other than a trained, professional docker can carry out loading and unloading work in ports. Consequently, this judgement will have wider effects for all ports in Norway that are operating under the same legislation.

Chair of the ETF Dockers Section and NTF’s Vice-President Terje Samuelsen defined this judgement to be ‘political’ and said: “Dockers’ right to do dock work has been virtually erased by the court’s ruling. The existing Collective bargaining agreement (CBA) will continue to be in place until the next negotiations in 2018. We are going to discuss within our Confederation, LO, the appropriateness for Norway to remain in the EEA, as there is no gain for workers, when economic freedoms are put before their rights”. 

ETF Political Secretary Livia Spera commented: “Once again we see that the liberalisation of dock work is being pursued through court cases. We find this judgement disgraceful not only for Norwegian dockers but for workers all over Europe. Giving priority to economic freedoms over protection of workers’ right is a blind political choice, especially in the backdrop of the long-lasting economic and political crisis. The right answer to populism which is gaining audience everywhere in Europe, should be reinforcing social justice and rights, through legislation and collective bargaining”.

A few hours after the Norwegian judgement the Belgian Minister for Labour, Kris Peeters, communicated that the European Commission would be ready not to pursue the infringement procedure that had been initiated a few years back against the Belgian port labour law.

“If confirmed, this would be encouraging news. It would reward Belgian social partners’ engagement to negotiate updates to existing legislation. We praise the work done by our Belgian affiliates to effectively protect their members and avoid the infringement procedure”, Livia Spera added.

The European Commission is expected to officially adopt the decision to stop the infringement procedure against Belgium early 2017.


Approval of Port Regulation: time to reset priorities for the EU port policy

Today the European Parliament gave its final OK to the Regulation on Framework for the provision of port services and financial transparency of ports. 

In his speech delivered in Plenary on 12 December rapporteur Knut Fleckenstein expressed satisfaction with the text, which is the result of lengthy negotiations between the European Commission, Parliament and Council. “Fifteen years after the first attempt to liberalise EU ports we have agreed on a text that does not liberalise ports and does not introduce self-handling. Even if it is not this regulation that will solve the social problems affecting EU ports, we have set the basis for future work” he said. 

The rapporteur particularly emphasised the importance of training and explained why he decided to have it in: “I have visited several ports in Europe, and in some of them I have witnessed subcontractors who don’t apply training standards and social legislation. I warn the Commission that liberalisation of training is not the right way to be taken" he concluded. 

Commenting on the vote, ETF Dockers’ Section Chair Terje Samuelsen declared “Indeed, we would have preferred a more stringent text, notably on the protection of workers in case of change of operator and on the good repute of the operators.” 

“As we have already stated in the past, we appreciate the work done by Mr Fleckenstein and his team who managed to negotiate substantial improvements in a political context that is certainly not favourable to unions’ demands. It is crucial for us that the attack on the right to strike, which was very dear to the former Transport Commissioner, has been removed from the text” he continued. 

“In line with what declared by Mr Fleckenstein during the Plenary meeting, we reiterate the importance of Article 14, which is the result of an agreement between ETF and FEPORT. The rapporteur was very clear on the reasons behind this article. We are determined to block any attempt to manipulate article 14 in order to take the liberalisation agenda further” he concluded. 

Torben Seebold, ETF Dockers’ Section Vice-Chair added “We agree with Mr Fleckenstein’s analysis: the regulation sets the basis for dealing with some crucial issues that ports are facing and that have not been properly dealt with so far. For instance, we need a social policy to cope with automation, we need to link state aid to the maritime sector at large to the creation of European employment, we need a sound investment policy able to limit overcapacity. Regrettably, the latest proposal for amending the General Block Exemption Regulation (GBER) failed to address these challenges, besides being incoherent with the Port Regulation. This make us fear that the EU port policy has no bright outlook.” 


ETF/ITF Dockers plan Unifeeder demo to say ‘cargo lashing is our work’

Hundreds of dockworkers from ETF and ITF-affiliated unions will descend on the offices of Northern European logistics company Unifeeder in Aarhus, Denmark on Friday 2 December, to continue the next stage of the ETF/ITF European Lashing Campaign. The campaign is spearhead by Danish union 3F.

A noisy and active demonstration is expected to raise the pressure on Unifeeder to make an agreement with the ITF over ensuring that lashing and unlashing work is strictly reserved for dockworkers. Dockers will come from ITF unions in Germany, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Belgium, the Netherlands, Poland and Denmark.

ITF inspectors have identified that Unifeeder-chartered vessels are regularly failing to hiring lashing gangs in European ports and seafarers are tasked with dockers’ work. Despite notices being issued to the masters of vessels to put an end to this practice, the ETF and ITF believe that not enough changes have been made.

ETF/ITF dockers’ sections’ vice-chair Torben Seebold said: “We have tried to have a constructive dialogue with Unifeeder about cargo lashing, but they have taken an entrenched position on this issue."

"We feel that we have little alternative but to show them how passionately our members feel about ensuring that Lashing is dock-work. We are sending out messages to all shipping lines and charterers who resist and abuse ITF agreements, that they will find themselves under increasing pressure to adhere to the agreements they sign. We are determined to win back our work and we won’t go away."

For more information about the demonstration, contact

Go to for more on the ongoing ETF/ITF reclaim lashing campaign.


First evaluation of the Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee's work programme

The EU Social Partners for ports have issued today a joint statement on their evaluation of the Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee’s work programme and the work done so far. In the statement the social partners welcome the positive discussions held since its establishment, reiterate their commitment to the objectives of the Social Dialogue for Ports and express the hope that the European Commission will continue to respect the ongoing work and dialogue regarding all items of the agenda as well as their autonomy.

You can find the full text of the joint social partners’ statement below.

 Joint Statement

First evaluation of the work program of the Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee for ports

A good start of dialogue for concrete results

In June 2013, ETF, IDC, FEPORT and ESPO have established, with the support of the European Commission, the Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee for ports (SSDC for Ports). Through this committee, social partners intend to work jointly to contribute to the improvement of working and living conditions for the people employed in the sector as well to the competitiveness and productivity within EU ports.

In the course of 2014, the EU social partners have been able to agree on an agenda which includes a number of issues: health and safety, training and qualifications and the inclusion of women in the port sector.

By the end of 2015, the Social partners warmly thanked the Commission for its support in having ensured the chairmanship of SSDC meetings and considered that it was time for the Committee to be chaired and co-chaired by representatives from the employers and employees.

Mr. Xavier Galbrun (FEPORT Chair of the Social Affairs Committee) was appointed for a term of one year as the Chair of the SSDC for ports while Mr. Mike Gibbons was appointed as the Vice Chair of the Committee.

Regarding health and safety and more particularly the issue of safety of work on board of ships, social partners have initiated good discussions with representatives from the shipping industry (ECSA and ICS) to find joint solutions to minimize risks on board of ships for port workers. The Commission is also assisting the social partners and ECSA in this respect. In this domain, we are seeking to tackle two issues in particular: clarifying and ensuring proper enforcement of existing legislation; improving communication and information sharing on safety hazards on board.

Risks for port workers resulting from exposure to fumigants are also a matter of concern for social partners who have requested the assistance of the European Union information agency for occupational safety and health (OSHA) and the Commission to find appropriate solutions.

Last but not least, interesting discussions regarding the impact of market based developments (increase in size of ships, shipping alliances, impact of the financial crisis) and technological innovation have also been discussed and social partners have decided to request from DG Employment a grant to finance a study on the impact of the above mentioned developments on ports operations.

The establishment of the Social Dialogue Committee for Ports coincided with the start of the legislative procedure regarding the Ports Regulation (former Port Services Regulation). The exchanges between the social partners in the framework of the SSDC have allowed the emergence of converging positions on a number of issues such as training and the role of social dialogue.

Social partners are satisfied to see that the text jointly agreed upon last June 27th by the Council, the European Parliament and the Commission includes social provisions and confirms the role and the competence of the Social Dialogue for Ports regarding the issues that are part of its agenda, especially those related to training and qualifications.

Europe has proven to be a global leader in regards to port training and qualifications and this has been acknowledged by a number of surveys detailing the diversity of the training schemes in The EU.

Many terminals in the EU are the highest performing in operations, and among the safest in the world. This is in a large part due to the good work done by social partners throughout Europe. Social partners are confident that the Commission will continue to respect the autonomy of social partners on training and qualifications so as to ensure that Europe continues to be a global leader in port training.

Social partners will remain committed to the objectives of the Social Dialogue for Ports and hope that the Commission will continue to respect the ongoing work and dialogue regarding all items of the agenda, particularly those relating to training and qualifications.


Agreement on job security reached at Port of Rotterdam

On 5 July 2016 ETF/ITF affiliates FNV Havens and CNV Vakmensen concluded an agreement with the Rotterdam Port Authority and the container terminals over job security in the port’s container sector. 

The negotiations, that lasted for more than a year, had been initiated further to the wakeup call from the unions on the need to prevent the imminent loss of jobs in Rotterdam’s container terminal, due to increasing automation and overcapacity. 

FNV Havens’s Niek Stam said "We still regret the way port expansion was dealt with, denying dialogue with the unions over the impact that additional capacity and automation would have on workers. However, we are proud to have been able to reach this agreement. We had to fight hard. Negotiations were lengthy and complicated but in the end we managed to reach a compromise on the most important concerns for the workers". 

The agreement ensures that port workers with a permanent employment contract on 1 January 2015 are guaranteed job security until June 2020. Pre-retirement schemes have been agreed upon, so that older workers will work with reduced working time, while younger colleagues will have job guarantee. Mechanisms to ease the exchange of workers amongst the terminals will also be implemented. 

Satisfaction was expressed by the unions also for the fact that the agreement includes measures to prevent the dismissal of the workers of Rotterdam Port Services (RPS), a labour pool employing 121 dockers. 

During the negotiations talks were also held on the need to align lashing requirements to those of the neighbouring countries and make sure that all lashing is done by dockers, also on small ships.   

"We aimed for negotiating solutions for the whole container sector, not just for one company. Notwithstanding the attempts to jeopardise a sectoral agreement and divide workers, we have managed to find solutions applicable to the whole sector,” Niek Stam added. 

 “This is a major step forward. The ongoing developments in maritime transport have crucial implications for the sector. We need to act smartly to make sure that terminals and workers do not pay the price for those developments.  As unions we have put forward several proposals; hopefully we will see more of these kind of agreements in the future” he concluded. 


Estonian shop steward fired after court demands his reinstatement

On 1 October 2015 Sergey Mastepan, an EMSA Shop Steward working at the Estonian stevedoring services company Transiidikeskuse, was dismissed after he spoke out in a picket line speech about poor working conditions and anti-union discrimination by the employer. On 29 June 2016 the Estonian court judged that the termination of his contract was unlawful and demanded his reinstatement. Immediately after the court decision the company announced that Sergey would receive a notice of a further termination of his contract, this time on the grounds of the difficult economic situation. 

 The trade union movement is very much disturbed about the course of events and reads it as the employer’s persistence to undermine trade union representation in the company. It also fits in Transiidikeskuse’s refusal to recognise ETF affiliate EMSA which represents dockers working there. The ETF and ITF have therefore launched an appeal for sending protest letters to express solidarity and to demand that Transiidikeskuse reinstates Sergey Mastepan and recognises him as the properly-elected shop steward. Both organisations also call upon Managing Director Erik Laidvee to recognise EMSA and enter into collective bargaining negotiations. You can find the template protest letter on the ETF website.  


Compromise text on Port regulation must enhance social performance of ports

The ETF is following very closely the ongoing trilogue negotiations on the port regulation, which are being carried out in the attempt to find a compromise between the Council’s and Parliament’s positions. 

Speaking today at the yearly conference of ANGOPI (the Italian boatmen and moorers’ association) ETF Political Secretary for Dockers, Livia Spera, said: “We are now in a crucial phase of the trilogue negotiations. Indeed, our members are extremely worried about the proposals that are being made on some of the most important articles. We are not ready to support a text that would drive us back to the Commission’s original proposal on market access, social protection and attacks to the right to strike. We are pleased to hear today that in Italy there is a general agreement, from the sector and the institutions, on the role that this new text should play in enhancing the social performance of ports. In our view, there is no need for a regulation that does not contribute to protect European jobs and working conditions.

Many of those speaking at the conference, which include MEPs, representatives of the Italian institutions and academics confirmed the crucial role of technical-nautical services for safety and security and emphasised the need for keeping social improvements in the text. 

German dockers claim back lashing

Today, 18 May 2016 a lashing seminar gathering German Dockers was held in Hamburg at the initiative of ETF German affiliate ver.di and with the support from ETF and ITF. 

During the seminar the ongoing ETF/ITF lashing campaign was presented and its future discussed. Lashing and unlashing are part of the operations to be performed by dockers: these are highly dangerous operations that can only be done by trained and experienced workers. The campaign, launched in May 2015, intends to put an end to self-handling cases. 

ETF Dockers’ Section Chair, Terje Samuelsen said "Way too often we get reports of lashing and unlashing done by seafarers on board feeder vessels. Besides representing an enormous risk for seaferers’ and maritime safety, this practice jeopardises dockers’ jobs. Collective bargaining agreements for seafarers include a clause stating that lashing has to be done by dockers, and we are determined to enforce this. With this campaign European dockworkers’ unions have put forward a broad strategy that is already delivering good results. We are now ready to elevate the pressure and take our campaign to a higher level"

"German dockers have loudly voiced the need to claim back lashing" stated Torben Seebold, ETF Dockers’ vice-chair and dockers’ leader within ver.di. 

"They see this campaign as a crucial tool for ensuring the future of their profession. The resolution and firmness they have expressed today is key to achieving our objectives. Similar seminars will be held soon in other European ports, as getting lashing back is high in the list of priorities in many countries. We have fiercely fought against two port packages because they aimed at allowing self-handling: we are not going to tolerate this happening in our ports!".

The meeting was also the occasion for confirming German dockers’ support to the Fair Transport Europe campaign.

Solidarność signs CBA with DCT Gdansk after 3-year dispute

Polish ETF affiliate Solidarność has signed yesterday, 20 April 2016, a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with Deepwater Container Terminal (DCT) Gdansk. This settles a long lasting dispute between the port and its workforce including complaints from the union over victimisation and harassment by the employer and the firing of union leaders.

The agreement follows demonstrations at DCT Gdansk and in other European countries with support from the European and global trade union community. The CBA, valid until 31 March 2019, covers pay rates, hours of work, holidays and general conditions for 600 workers at the fast-growing new terminal in northern Poland. The port seeks to become the main gateway to Russia and central Europe and opens next year a second terminal providing jobs for 1,500 workers.

ETF and ITF dockers’ section vice-chair Torben Seebold said: “We are pleased that our brothers and sisters in Gdansk have won their battle to secure a voice in their workplace. The ITF and ETF family has stood shoulder-to-shoulder with them as they have fought against the belligerent and intimidatory tactics of previous management. A change in management at DCT Gdansk was overdue and now we are hopeful that dockers there can have better standards that are consistent with those in neighbouring countries. It is no less than they deserve. We are sending out an important message to all port owners; we will not let you get away with trying to drive down pay and conditions by building new ports and employing cheap labour.”

ETF dockers’ section chair Terje Samuelsen concluded: “We are extremely proud of the victory of our Polish members. This is a great example of international solidarity among transport workers". 

Port Regulation: No more compromises possible on social aspects

On 8 March the European Parliament (EP) Plenary adopted the Fleckenstein report on the Commission’s proposal on "Market access to port services and financial transparency for ports". 

The report is the result of compromises amongst the major political groups in the EP, reached through very lengthy and complex negotiations. Three-way talks between the European Parliament, the Commission and the Council are due to start soon in order to find a compromise amongst the three institutions. 

"The ETF did not agree with the Commission’s proposal and even less with the Council general approach. We supported Mr Fleckenstein's report because it is a substantial improvement of the Commission’s proposal. For the third time the EP has rejected attempts to impose liberalisation of port services. The hidden danger to prevent the right to strike has been removed and amongst the minimum requirements several of our demands have been included. Article 10 has been strengthened and the role of social dialogue has been acknowledged" declared Torben Seebold, Vice Chair of the ETF Dockers’ Section. ‘We are aware that the process is far from being finalised and that there is a tough political battle ahead in trilogue. We have a very clear view on this: no more compromises are possible on social aspects! Commissioner Bulc has stated on many occasions her support for improving the social dimension of the proposal and we expect her words to be followed by concrete results". 

"The EP text tackles several crucial problems that we are facing in European ports: automation, social dumping, challenges to labour schemes, precarious work and safety are all elements that the MEPs decided to mention in the report. This is an important recognition of our demands and of the political and industrial struggles that we are carrying out on several fronts" said Terje Samuelsen, ETF Dockers’ Section Chair. "We not only expect that these changes are kept after trilogue negotiations, but also that the concerns expressed in the report are taken into account in policies and decisions made at both national and European levels. Legal and industrial attacks on port workers must be stopped!" he concluded. 

Sign the LabourStart petition to reinstate Said

General secretary of the Union des Syndicats UMT des Transports, Said Elhairech, spent over three months in jail in 2012 because his activism didn't go down well in Morocco. He was freed after a global campaign - including support from 6,000 people on LabourStart - and went back to work at Somaport in Casablanca. Said continued to lead his union but has been dismissed from his job by Somaport, the CMA-CGM owned port operator. His efforts to promote and advance trade union rights have been branded 'a nuisance' and workers have been falsely told he doesn't represent them anymore. Meanwhile other trade union colleagues face victimisation, intimidation and threats of dismissal at the hands of their employer. Tell CMA-CGM to give Said back his job and to stop attacking trade union rights in Morocco by signing the LabourStart petition here

ITF/ETF dockers call on Macquarie to secure dignity for DCT workers 

Dockworkers are holding protests in locations across Europe to demonstrate their objection to the poor treatment of workers at the Deepwater Container Terminal (DCT), Poland. 

Members of ITF (International Transport Workers’ Federation)- /ETF (European Transport Workers’ Federation)- affiliated union Solidarnosc who work at DCT, have faced constant obstruction from their employer over the past two and half years as they have sought a collective bargaining agreement (CBA). In particular there is concern over the number of union leaders and activists who have had their contracts of employment terminated during this period.

DCT Gdansk SA is registered in Poland but is majority owned and managed by Australian financial services and asset management company Macquarie, which has several representatives on the supervisory board. Macquarie’s shareholding in DCT Gdansk is held through its Global Infrastructure Fund II (GIF II). 

So far two demonstrations have taken place outside Macquarie offices in Frankfurt and Luxembourg, with senior company representatives being called on to meet with ITF/ETF officials to discuss the role they could play in bringing about a resolution to the ongoing dispute. More demonstrations will be organised if Macquarie fails to accept the request for a meeting. 

Vice chair of the ETF and ITF dockers’ sections Torben Seebold said: “Solidarnosc members at DCT are seeking a decent CBA, reinstatement of their representatives and colleagues and improvements to pay and contracts of employment. Macquarie can help to make that happen."

Pictures of the demonstrations can be found here

Follow the latest @ITFglobal on Facebook and @ITFglobalunion and @ETF Dockers on twitter #ITFdockers 

TRAN Committee improves PSR but ETF stays vigilant on several fronts

Today, 25 January 2016, the European Parliament Committee on Transport and Tourism (TRAN Committee) adopted its report on the so-called Port Service Regulation (PSR). This legislative proposal is crucial for the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF) as it touches upon several groups of workers represented by the Federation, especially in tugs and cargo-handling. 

The rapporteur, Knut Fleckenstein has done a huge work trying to balance the text according to the points of view expressed by the relevant stakeholders,” said ETF Dockers’ Section vice-chair, Torben Seebold. “We had asked the TRAN Committee to be more ambitious on social articles, but we believe that the PSR resulting from this vote presents several improvements compared to the original text,” he added. 

We are particularly pleased that the EP rejected the market access elements”, Seebold continued. “This is the third time: hopefully the lesson has been learnt and no similar proposals will come up in the future. The new article 10.a, on which we could find an agreement with FEPORT, is a good step forward.  We are, however, very concerned about ongoing attempts to dismantle port labour schemes. We are not going to stare at the precarisation of our jobs and the worsening of our working conditions: when dialogue falls short, international solidarity is ready to be implemented” he concluded. 

A positive element for the ETF is also the exclusion of pilotage and the recognition of its fundamental role for safety. 

Voicing the unions representing workers in tugs, Jean-Philippe Chateil from ETF French affiliate FOMM UGICT CGT declared “The initial text was very worrying because of its potential negative impact on existing social standards in the tug sector in some EU countries. A joint effort was made at institutional level to listen to our concerns’. He added ‘Satisfactory solutions could be found to avoid opening the door to social dumping. More political courage would have been needed on some aspects, notably on transfer of staff, as not all EU countries have legislation protecting workers’ rights when the tug operator is replaced"

We’ll do all we can to make sure that the enhancements are kept by the Plenary and by the upcoming three-way negotiations and that further improvements are introduced,” concluded Livia Spera, ETF Political Secretary for Dockers.

For more information please contact Livia Spera, ETF Political Secretary for Dockers:, tel. +32 470 930589

ITF and ETF back industrial action at Port of Rotterdam

The ITF (International Transport Workers’ Federation) and ETF (European Transport Workers’ Federation) are supporting their affiliated Dutch dockers’ union FNV Havens as industrial action begins this afternoon (Thursday 7 January) at the Port of Rotterdam.

Union members have just walked out of work and onto the picket line (at 3.15pm local time (GMT+1) ) after employers failed to meet demands over job guarantees once two new Maasvlakte terminals become fully operational in Rotterdam. Both the APMT and the ECT terminals will be affected for a 24-hour period.

At a press conference this afternoon FNV Havens secretary Niek Stam outlined the impact of increased automation and overcapacity at container terminals in Rotterdam: “Hundreds of jobs are being put at risk because there just isn’t the industry growth in Rotterdam to sustain these new terminals as well as the existing ones; employers are trying to play musical chairs with our jobs!”

“Members are going to take action because they know that they have to stand up for their rights as hard working men and women. Our livelihoods and the future of our families and our communities rely on decent, secure jobs and those things are worth fighting for.”

FNV Havens wants a guarantee of job security for all employees who had a permanent job on 1 January 2015, until at least 2022.

Representatives from BTB in Belgium, Ver.di in Germany and CGT in Le Havre, France have joined Dutch workers on the picket line.

Second vice chair of the ITF dockers’ section and vice chair of the ETF dockers’ section Torben Seebold said: “We stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters at the Port of Rotterdam. The decision to take strike action is not an easy one but after months of fruitless negotiation and on an issue this important, dockers here have been left with little choice. They have the support of transport workers around the world.” 

Unions ready for industrial actions in port of Rotterdam

Rotterdam Dockworkers' unions FNV Havens and CNV Vakmensen are ready to call for a mobilisation of their members after the failure of negotiations between the unions, the port authority and the employers.

On Friday 11 December the employers and port authority have left the negotiating table where discussions were being held with the unions on the financial contribution the port of Rotterdam is expected to pay to compensate the social consequences of automation and overcapacity in the container sector.  

"Those who decided to increase capacity and to build automated terminals should cover the social costs of their choices", said Niek Stam, leader of FNV Havens and member of the ETF Dockers' Section Steering Committee. "For many years we have warned about the dangers of expansion and automation plans but the port authority always refused to engage in a meaningful dialogue. We expect that up to 800 people will lose their job. This is not fair nor sustainable and workers are not ready to pay the price for inadequate business choices" he added.

During the past weekend assemblies with the workers were held at every shift. On Friday 18 December the union FNV Havens will organise two meetings with their members to submit to the workers the offers made by the employers. If these are being turned down, the unions will send an ultimatum to their counterparts. In case an agreement is not being found after the ultimatum, the unions will call for strikes as from the 1st of January 2016.

2015 dark year for safety in European ports 

If every accident at work is one too much and every death at the workplace is unacceptable, 2015 is a particularly dark year for safety in the docks.

In 2015 European Dockworkers, their families and their unions have mourned colleagues, relatives and comrades who lost their life while working in the ports of Antwerp, Bilbao, Bremerhaven, Helsinki, Oxelösund, Sines, Valencia, just to mention those accidents that have been publicly reported. 

"Although these accidents have occurred in different circumstances and according to different dynamics, we are experiencing growing pressure on dockworkers, who are demanded to be more and more productive. Time pressure plays a significant role in safety because there is a tendency to overlook procedures that would allow preventing a certain number of accidents", said ETF Dockers’ Section Chair Terje Samuelsen. "Investigations are still ongoing on most of these accidents and we will have to wait for the final results to make an assessment of the causes and take measures to avoid that similar accidents occur again. However, we believe there is a safety emergency that must be tackled. Beside expressing our deepest condolences to the families we are expected to act, together with employers, port authorities and all involved actors", he concluded. 

ETF voices concern on impact of mega-ships

The maritime and port industries are changing dramatically and at an unexpected speed. This has serious implications for port workers. Fair and meaningful dialogue is needed to tackle the impact of those changes on port operations. These are in brief the messages delivered by Torben Seebold, ETF Dockers’ Section Vice-Chair, at a stakeholder conference on “Why does an efficient logistics chain require close dialogue” organised by FEPORT last Thursday, 3 December.

"In a context where vessels’ size is growing, cargo volume is not increasing and ships are not full, it is legitimate and urgent for the industry to dialogue and act’, Seebold said. ‘Let’s take the case of the North Range ports, and in particular of Rotterdam: automation is introduced without a preliminary meaningful dialogue with the workers, port capacity has been increased and volumes are not growing. In this framework it is not easy for operators to recoup their investments, and they are not entitled to state aid as other players in the maritime sector. Port employers are pushed to cut their costs and in the end workers pay the highest contribution, in terms of job security and working conditions, as pressure on them is increasing. We have already started a dialogue with FEPORT on this. However, discussions have to be taken also at the level of maritime clusters and have to involve all concerned parties, including local institutions"

He concluded by saying that "decisions on the sector can’t be left to bankers and private equity funds!"

ETF and S&D seminar sets social priorities in ports

On 1 December the ETF and S&D group held a joint seminar to discuss about social priorities in EU ports.

Opening the event, S&D coordinator within the TRAN Committee, Ismail Ertug identified the need "to strike a balance between the demand fluctuations for port work and the flexibility required by port operations on the one hand, and continuity and protection of employment for workers on the other". He also emphasised the need to include social clauses in tender documents, concession contracts and investment plans, so as to clearly determine appropriate minimum requirements for service providers and subcontractors. Support to EU ports that compete with non-EU ones through fiscal measures and through a well-thought investment policy was also mentioned as a priority. 

ETF member Niek Stam, from Dutch union FNV Havens presented the situation in North Range ports. He outlined how the combination of the economic crisis with the increasing size of vessels, the growing automation, the formation of shipping alliances, the expansion of terminal capacity result in overcapacity in ports and at sea and puts the cargo handling sector under heavy pressure. "Workers are at the bottom of the process and pay the highest price in terms of worsening working conditions. They are required to be more and more flexible and productive and are offered no job guarantee in the medium term. The solution to compensate these current developments is to have labour pools, which allow combining flexibility with fair and stable working conditions". 

Mladen Jovicic, Secretary General of the ETF affiliate SZPD, gave an overview of the situation in the port of Koper, where the union is trying to propose solutions to end social dumping and make sure that casual workers are entitled to the same terms and conditions as those employed directly by the port. He explained that "at present subcontractors act as labour agencies for the port. They provide no equipment or specific know-how and keep about half of the money the port pays for the worker. We are suggesting a step-by-step solution that would eventually lead to the creation of a labour pool. This would be a more efficient and fairer tool to manage human resources. We want equal pay for equal job!

"The cases of the North Range and Slovenia are not isolated’ declared after the seminar ETF General Secretary Eduardo Chagas. ‘Workers in many European ports are going through hard times and the situation will worsen if policies fail to tackle real priorities for the sector, also through a dialogue with the unions. In the framework of our campaign on fair transport we put forward several port-related proposals and we are glad to see that these are supported by the S&D group", he added. 

In the concluding remarks that followed the round table discussion on how the Port Service Regulation (PSR) could help improving the social dimension of EU ports, hosting MEP Knut Fleckenstein declared "the PSR won’t change the situation, but is allowing us to state clearly that there are social problems in European ports and that these should be tackled. I see room for improved cooperation within the sector, which should be respected and accompanied by the institutions". 

Fair Transport Europe -  One million signature for fair transport 

27 October 2015 - The ETF and its affiliates are supporting the Fair Transport Europe campaign to raise public and political awareness on the deplorable working conditions in parts of the European transport sector. The campaign is engaging constructively with European decision-makers, offering concrete solutions to achieve positive changes in the working conditions of European transport workers.

The Fair Transport Europe campaign is carried out along with a European Citizens’ Initiative, through which one million signatures will be collected to request EU policy makers to contribute to the improvement of working conditions in the sector, by proposing new legislative texts, by amending existing ones, or, in some cases, by making sure that existing rules are properly enforced.

In the frame of the Fair Transport Europe campaign, the ETF has produced a paper outlining its vision for the future of European transport with proposals for each sector, among which Ports. The publication is a tool to call on EU decision makers to initiate and engage in a debate with transport workers on the future European Transport Market based upon sustainable premises, from an economic, environmental but also social perspective. 

With regard to the Port sector solutions are being formulated to reverse the return of casualisation; to protect workers in case of change of service providers in the framework of tendering processes or concession contracts; to eradicate dogmatic liberalisation which does not take social elements into account and to avoid negative impact of automation, overcapacity and competition from non-EU neighbouring ports on European dockers’ working conditions. 

Madleine Röhl, a German dockworker, explains what fair transport means from her perspective, namely regulated working hours and breaks, adequate free-time compensation and adequate wages. You can watch her video testimonial on the FairTransportEurope website

You can say Yes! to fair transport in Europe by signing the petition online via and by calling on your networks to do likewise. 

To follow the campaign progress, please like the campaign Facebook page and follow the campaign Twitter account.

LabourStart appeal backs Estonian shop-steward sacked for speaking out

23 October 2015 - Sergey Mastepan – a union representative for ETF affiliate Estonian Independent Seamen’s Union (EISU) – has been dismissed by Transiidikeskus AS, a stevedoring services company based around the port of Tallinn. The Estonian shop steward was reportedly sacked for speaking out against his employer. LabourStart, an online news service aiming to support the international trade union movement by collecting and disseminating information, has launched in collaboration with the ITF an online appeal calling for his reinstatement. 

Sergey’s dismissal happened after he spoke out in a picket line speech about poor working conditions and anti-union discrimination by the employer. He has also been raising awareness about the situation in the media. Minor or fabricated contract ‘violations’ are said to have been used as justification for Sergey’s dismissal after more than 20 years of service. The EISU is fighting back, mounting a legal case against the company and a global online campaign is underway calling on Transiidikeskus AS board members to take action to secure Sergey’s reinstatement.

Jyri Lember, ESIU chair, said: “Sergey is a dedicated trade unionist, he’s working to improve conditions for union members in the port of Tallinn and for that he’s being victimised. As a movement we can’t let that go, we have to stand up for what’s right. Making sure Sergey gets his job back and that issues of poor working conditions and anti-union discrimination are addressed are our top priorities.”

To support Sergey and the EISU, please click on the following link and send off your message of solidarity:

High Level meeting between ETF and FEPORT

17 September 2015 - ETF and FEPORT high Level representatives have met in Hamburg on September 15th and 16th, 2015 to exchange about evolutions in the European port sector and explore possible agreements and common positions about issues of interest for both organizations.

Estonian dockers to picket management building in fight for voice at work

11 September 2015 - “We’re going to be picketing in front of the offices of Port of Muuga management in Tallinn calling for union recognition for dockers. We want the community - local and global - to support us!”

That’s Jyri Lember Chairman of ETF- and ITF-affiliate the Estonian Independent Seamens Union (EMSA).

Workers at Transiidikeskuse AS Muuga, Tallinn elected a union steward to represent their interests in negotiations with management. But the relationship between the parties has deteriorated since management wrote to the EMSA refusing to recognise him. Not being legally-recognised means the steward misses out on crucial rights which benefit the union under Estonian law, such as the right to be informed and consulted over any workplace changes.

Lember said: “This shows total disregard for the wishes of the workforce.

62% of dockers and tallymen in Tallinn are members of the union. They’ve taken steps to protect their legitimate right to representation but management just isn’t willing to accept that.

This dispute hasn’t just come out of nowhere, there is a history of management in Transiidikeskuse employing anti-union tactics and threatening job security. The refusal to recognise the new steward is just the latest in a long line of actions.”

Support the Estonian dockers by sending a letter to the managing director of the company calling for recognition of the workers’ chosen union representative. 

North range port unions strengthen relationship

Unions representing dockworkers in the major seaports in the North range met today in Rotterdam and agreed on a common strategy to cope with the current and future challenges affecting the workers they represent. 

The unions* from Belgium, France, Germany, The Netherlands and the UK decided to establish the North Range Port Unions’ Coordination Board to work together on common collective targets, to develop a common approach to automation and to jointly counter the effects of overcapacity on port workers. 

The ports represented here today face similar challenges and so do their workers,” said Torben Seebold, in charge of ports within the German union ver.di. “The unions in the North Range have a long-lasting history of solidarity, dating back to the fights against the two port packages. Today we have decided to further strengthen our relationship and deal in a joint way with issues such as overcapacity and automation, which may negatively affect our members’ working conditions and job security.”

Discussions also focused on the global operator DP World, which is present in most of the major North Range ports. The unions noted that an agreement was only reached in DPW Rotterdam after a struggle, that difficulties continue with reaching a bargaining agreement in DPW London and agreed to support each other to overcome them.

During the meeting Anthony Tetard, Deputy General Secretary of CGT’s National Federation of Ports et Docks declared “We will pay close attention to try to make agreements that raise the standards of dockworkers and not allow employers to drive down the conditions of our members.”  

The meeting was also an occasion for participants to send a resounding message of support to their colleagues in Australia and Indonesia who are currently involved in disputes with global network terminal operator Hutchison Port Holdings.

*ACV Transcom, BTB-ABVV, Syndicat des Dockers du Port du Havre, ver.di, FNV Havens, Unite the union

Europe’s dockworkers’ unions brace for overcapacity in container transportation

On August 26 and 27 dockworkers’ unions in the ‘Hamburg-Le Havre Range’ (comprising all major seaports in Germany, Netherlands, France, United Kingdom and Belgium) will meet in Rotterdam to discuss the threats of overcapacity and on-going automation of terminals. They will also examine the  expansion of global terminal operator DP World in Europe.

Seaports are facing numerous challenges from changes in container shipping and extra terminal capacity being built in many northern European ports. Already many terminal operators are functioning below full utilisation and fail to realise their investments in their new, state-of-the-art terminals. Throughout the Range, ports are pushed into hefty competition, enticing shipping companies with ever-lower prices and higher discounts. Consequently further undermining the financial stability of terminal operators and endangering the working conditions of dockworkers.

At the same time, automation leads to a staggering decline in employment. Some indicate that Rotterdam, with its high levels of automation, may lose up to 20% of the jobs in its port industry.

The combined unions of dockworkers in Germany, Netherlands, France, United Kingdom and Belgium as well as the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF) and the International Dockworkers Council (IDC) will be discussing the current threats and push for socially acceptable solutions.

Another subject is how to improve the industrial relationship between DP World and labour unions. The August conference will seek to develop a strategy to force DP World, which operates 5 container terminals within the Hamburg-Le Havre Range, into the 21st century and start talks about a collective bargaining agreement for the workers at all their terminals.

EU-level port social partners meet Commissioner Bulc

18 June 2015 - On June 16th, 2015, Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc met with the European Sea Ports Organisation (ESPO), the European Transport Workers Federation (ETF), the Federation of European Private Port Operators (FEPORT) and the International Dockers’ Council (IDC), to discuss the achievements, current work, priorities and expectations of the Sectoral Social dialogue Committee for ports and listen to Commissioner Bulc's priorities regarding the port sector.

In June 2013, ESPO, ETF, FEPORT and IDC established, with the support of the European Commission, the Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee for ports. In their opening statement social partners confirmed that the Committee aims at contributing to the sector competitiveness while creating and retaining good jobs. They reminded that amongst the issues under discussion in their Work Programme from 2015-2016 there are occupational health and safety issues, training and qualifications, and the promotion of female employment in the sector, although the scope of the agenda will be widened on a step by step approach to include other topics of relevance for the sector.

Social partners emphasized certain challenges that the European port sector faces and that impact both its competitiveness and social dimension, such as the ever increasing size of ships; the competition from non-EU ports; the need to timely negotiate new working patterns and provide adequate training for technological innovation and minimise its social impact; the lack of adequate investments on hinterland infrastructures, which should be improved in order to cope with growing volumes, together with the removal of administrative barriers to the internal market; new energy landscapes and societal environmental pressure for the introduction of green technology; the need to ensure good working conditions and good social partnership in all ports. 

Social partners reiterated their commitment to further strengthen trust amongst them and to work towards an even closer cooperation with the European institutions. They will keep working on an ambitious work programme and agenda to achieve concrete results and reflect the evolution and dynamism of the port sector. Social partners also voiced their expectations. They among others expressed their wish to be consulted by the European Commission upstream of initiatives regarding the port sector. 

Additionally, social partners requested more support to social dialogue, both politically and in terms of resources. Cross-sectoral cooperation amongst different committees on specific subjects would be more than welcome. The four organizations renewed their appeal to give priority to social dialogue as already declared in their statement from December 2014. 

Commissioner Bulc said “I feel honoured to be here today. European ports are a dynamic environment and a huge source of employment in Europe. Social partners expressed today great expectations and strong commitments. I am determined to be a fair companion for them and maintain close dialogue”.


ETF (European Transport Workers’ Federation) represents 240 trade unions and 3.5 million workers in all transport modes

ESPO in its capacity of representing Bulgarian Port Infrastructure Company, Cyprus Port Authority, Union des Ports de France, Transport Malta, NC Port Administration Constantza, Sveriges Hamnar, British Ports Association, UK Major Ports Group.

FEPORT representing employers in Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Spain & Slovenia

IDC (International Dockworkers Council) represents 16.000 port workers in European ports 

ETF expresses condolences over death of German docker

18 May 2015 - Dockers’ Section Chair Terje Samuelsen, expressed deepest condolences on behalf of the whole ETF for the tragic death of a 52-year old docker in Bremerhaven, Germany on Thursday 14 May. “Only a few weeks after the accident in Antwerp, which caused the death of three dockers, here we mourn another of our colleagues, who lost his life in a European port. We express our deepest condolences to his family, his colleagues and his union, ver.di. Being the voice of European dockers in Europe, our commitment remains to bring occupational health and safety high on the agenda of the European port policy and social dialogue.

Torben Seebold ETF Dockers’ Section Vice-Chair and responsible for the Port Section within ver.di said “We are sad and shocked by the death of our comrade in Bremerhaven. He was an experienced docker and very much respected by his colleagues. We are awaiting the results of the investigation, which we hope will help avoiding similar accidents in the future.”

ETF Dockers’ lashing campaign turns global

15 May 2015 - At the initiative of ETF/ITF European dockworkers unions, a global campaign on lashing was launched on the occasion of ITF maritime meetings, held this week in Perth, Australia.

“Lashing and unlashing are an integral part of dockwork, and this is because these are extremely dangerous operations which have to be performed by trained dockers,” said Terje Samuelsen, Chair of the ETF Dockers’ Section. “We see a growing number of cases, especially on feeder ships and ferries, where seafarers lash and unlash cargo. This is not acceptable,” he continued, “as by doing operations for which they are not trained, they put their safety at serious risk”.

“Getting lashing back has since long time been a priority for many of our dockers’ unions,” continued Torben Seebold, ETF Dockers’ Section Vice-Chair. “ETF dockers had already agreed to take a coordinated approach and link the various national campaigns. As this is a global issue which has to be tackled jointly by dockers’ and seafarers’ unions, we decided to take the campaign to a global level. Seafarers’ collective agreements clearly state that dockwork should only be performed by dockworkers. This campaign will definitely take mutual solidarity between dockers and seafarers to a further step, and its success will benefit both groups of workers” he concluded.

Solidarnosc DCT campaign backed by ITF Dockers

15 May 2015 - Łukasz Kozłowski, newly-elected Chairman of KZ NSZZ Solidarność at DCT Gdańsk S.A. came to the ITF Global Dockers’ meeting in Perth, Australia to update delegates on progress with their campaign. He reported that a legal complaint was submitted by Solidarność following the non-renewal of the employment contract to former union chairman Michał Pijanowski. Collective bargaining negotiations have now commenced with a legal firm appointed by the management and it is hoped that an agreement can be reached soon. ITF Dockers renewed their full and continued support to the campaign.

European Parliament’s debate on PSR heads in the right direction

Today, 5 May 2015, the EP TRAN Committee resumed its work on the proposed Regulation on market access to port services and financial transparency of ports (PSR). The meeting was attended by an ETF delegation which included union officials and workers in cargo handling and other port services from Belgium, France, Germany and the UK. 

The German S&D rapporteur Knut Fleckenstein opened the debate by stating his intention to make the chapter on market access evolving into a text tackling working conditions in ports. In his speech he acknowledged the support of Transport Commissioner Bulc for taking a pragmatic approach and to concentrate on financial transparency. 

“Today, for the first time in years, we heard a fair approach to EU ports policy”, said ETF Political Secretary Livia Spera. “Worsening of working conditions and casualisation of labour are a reality for the sector. It is high time for the legislator to tackle the social consequences of the changes that affected maritime transport and port operations. Our members were at the European Parliament today to show their full support for Mr Fleckenstein’s intention to include a meaningful social dimension in the regulation. We were pleased to hear that many MEPs from different political groups could support this approach,” she continued. “It is clear that only a limited number of MEPs are advocating the worrying idea of a third port package, which would include liberalisation of cargo handling. As in the past, this idea would meet our strongest and firmest opposition.”

ETF expresses condolences over death of Belgian dockers

15 April 2015 - On Saturday 11 April, three dockworkers died in the port of Antwerp, Belgium, while entering a ship’s hold to unload its freight of cokes, a type of coal. All three dockers had years of experience, the consternation among their colleagues is high. 

ETF (European Transport Workers’ Federation) Dockers’ section chair, Terje Samuelsen, said: “Our first thoughts and expression of solidarity go out to the dockers’ relatives, colleagues and friends. This is a devastating time for them and for all dockers who learnt about this accident.”

“Dockers are constantly aware of the risks involved, port safety and accident prevention always receive their highest attention. The port of Antwerp has a very high repute when it comes to health and safety; this is the gravest accident in Antwerp since many years.”

“We count on a profound and transparent investigation into the causes of these deaths and that sufficient measures will be taken to prevent this from happening again.”

Poland’s largest container terminal bans dock union organisers

The ITF and ETF are supporting Polish affiliate union Solidarnosc, after its organisers were banned from accessing the country’s fastest growing port terminal. 

The ban at DCT Gdansk follows a protest by 30 dockers at the office of the CEO over the termination of a union leader’s employment contract last week.  

Union membership at the port is approaching 50 percent. Despite this, management has failed to address union concerns over a number of important issues including pay, contracts, meaningful negotiation, consultation and holidays. It has also brought in a legal firm to handle negotiations with the union over a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) rather than dealing with the process directly.

DCT Gdansk recently secured loans of € 290 million to expand its operations and plans to employ 1,500 workers to meet the growing demand for deep-sea services in Central-Eastern Europe. Some of this borrowing is secured through the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). ITF representatives are in dialogue with the bank over its performance requirement for clients, which stipulates that they will not discourage workers from forming or joining workers’ organisations of their choosing or bargaining collectively, and will not discriminate against workers who participate in such organisations.

ITF president and chair of the ITF dockers’ section, Paddy Crumlin said: ”It looks like DCT Gdansk is trying to deploy every dirty trick in the book to avoid dealing openly with Solidarnosc. Its treatment of union members and leaders is deplorable and unacceptable. We expect to see a new CBA shortly. In the meantime we will continue our dialogue with the EBRD, step up pressure on the investment banking group Macquarie which owns DCT and raise this problem with customers and the international trade union community.”

Addressing the Transport Week Conference in Poland on 19 March, ETF General Secretary Eduardo Chagas said: “To have a meaningful social dialogue at EU level we first need a strong social dialogue in the member states. As we speak, union representatives are being banned from the DCT terminal here in Gdansk. It is regrettable that a major player in the sector acts this way, our Polish members have all our support.” 

ITF dockers’ section 2nd vice-chair and 1st  vice-chair of the ETF dockers’ section, Torben Seebold will meet with Polish union leaders in April to discuss providing international support to help their campaign.

Get more info on the situation at DCT Gdansk in English or Polish.

Send messages of support to Justyna Sumczyńska-Grzymała: and share this story with your contacts using the social media tabs at the top of the newsletter.

ETF members contribute to S&D seminar on port labour

On 13 March 2015 ETF affiliates in the port sector from Germany, Italy, Slovenia and Croatia gathered in Koper, Slovenia to attend a seminar organised by the Socialists and Democrats group (S&D) in the European Parliament at the initiative of the MEPs Fleckenstein, De Monte, Picula and Fajon. 

The meeting was aimed at discussing working conditions, labour organisation and the possible contribution to the EU level to the improvement of the current social situation in the ports of Trieste, Koper and Rijeka. Besides the geographical proximity, the union in the three ports share concerns on precarious jobs and casual labour, subcontracting and health and safety hazards. The seminar prompted a closer cooperation amongst the unions and raised awareness of the four MEPs and of the S&D group on the need to act and tackle such crucial issues from an EU perspective. 

ETF Tug conference marks beginning of trade unions’ cooperation in the sector

At the Tug conference on 11 March 2015 in Antwerp, ETF affiliates representing workers in tug operations discussed the impact of global maritime business model shifts on towage operations. In a declaration resulting from the conference, the representatives express, among others, their strong concerns over initiatives encouraging tug boat operators to make use of flags of convenience.

Chair of the conference, Richard Crease: “Towage operations require the maximum of skills and competences and are an essential service for ports and maritime safety and security. Discussions on the further opening of the competition must coincide with tackling practices that initiate a downward spiral in terms of social and working conditions”. 

The participants confirmed at the conference their rejection of the Port Service Regulation. The proposed regulation would worsen the situation and impose a purely theoretical market model without any social added value, it is stated in the declaration. The ETF and its affiliates commit to seeking a meaningful dialogue with the European Tugowners’ Association to safeguard the future of the European tug industry.

You can download the full declaration here.

Italian unions serve strike notice as port reforms are announced

The three ETF affiliates FILT CGIL, FIT CISL and UILTRASPORTI announced a strike of port workers, employees of port authorities and workers in technical-nautical services on 6 March 2015.

The decision was taken due to the recent developments in Italian ports policy. Measures to further liberalise the market for port services are to be proposed by the Ministry for Economic Development  in the coming days. At the same time, a reform of the current port law is being prepared by the Ministry for Transport. According to what was announced by the Minister for Transport, the reform would dismantle the pool system in place in some Italian ports, deregulate the existing rules on the access to the labour market for the sector, and remove the obligation for employers to apply the national-level collective bargaining agreement, which covers all workers in the sector, including the employees of the Port Authorities.

Beside opposing the measures to be proposed by the government, the three unions jointly condemn the lack of coordination amongst various Ministries involved as well as the absence of an open consultation of the trade unions.

Port workers will stage a 24-hour strike, while workers in technical-nautical services will stop working for 12 hours.

ETF affiliates in Belgium and Germany exchange on labour organisation and automation

On 17 February 2015 Belgian affiliate BTB-ABVV had the opportunity to discuss labour organisation in the port of Hamburg with the German union ver.di. Issues related to port automation and consequences on labour were also dealt with during the meetings, as the delegation visited the HHLA container terminal.
The exchange took place on the sidelines of an informal meeting organised at the initiative of ver.di, attended by unions from several countries as well as by ETF and ITF officials. 

ITF repeats call for Rotterdam dialogue as dockers protest

20 January 2015 - The ITF (International Transport Workers’ Federation) today called for all-party talks on the future of the port of Rotterdam, as dockers refused to unload a ship loaded at the new Rotterdam Gateway (RWG) terminal. RWG, unlike other companies at the port, refuses to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement with port workers, who are represented by the FNV Havens union.

On Sunday the vessel Alsvin loaded containers at RWG, in what was believed to be a test operation. It then moved to the ECT terminal in Rotterdam to discharge them. Dockers refused to unload them.

ITF president and chair of the ITF dockers’ section, Paddy Crumlin, stated: “Rotterdam is a giant among the world’ ports and should be a model of good industrial relations. It is notable that all the operators there bar one have signed agreements with the union representing its workers. This is despite many previous warnings and widespread concern about the port’s future.”

He concluded: “We urge all parties, and that includes not just all operators and port authorities, but also the shipping lines, to get together to defuse this situation and reach an agreed settlement to ensure the dispute does not escalate more widely.”

Dockers rally to protect jobs in Rotterdam

17 December 2014 - Dockers from across Europe join their brothers and sisters at a rally in Rotterdam today (Wednesday 17 December) to protest against the impact of developments in the container sector at the port there.
ETF/ITF-affiliated union FNV Havens is concerned over the potential loss of employment and reduced working conditions as a result of an increase in automation and the expansion in capacity from Rotterdam Gateway and the construction of Maasvlakte II.
Rotterdam World Gateway (RWG) is a joint venture of four shipping lines and global network giant Dubai Ports World.
National secretary of FNV ports in the Netherlands, Niek Stam commented: “When taking decisions on port expansion neither the administration nor the port authority in Rotterdam has taken into account the impact it could have on employment, on normal working families in this city.”
We want to work with our employers and port authority to try and find joint answers to the problems workers are facing such as the threat of losing jobs and overcapacity. But management just don't seem to be interested. Our priority is dialogue and all parties moving forward positively together. Another issue is to secure a collective bargaining agreement for workers at RWG to secure a level playing field in the industry. That’s why we’re holding this rally.”
Speaking on the international support for Rotterdam dockers, ETF dockers’ section chair Terje Samuelsen added: “Our union members worldwide are standing together on this because that’s the only way to defend the rights, jobs and pride of dockworkers.
The rally starts at 11.30 CET from Willemskade Rotterdam to Wilhelminaplein (opposite side of the Erasmusbridge) and will end at 15.00 CET.
Follow updates live from the rally via ITF social media channels.     @itfglobalunion    #proud2bdockers

Port social partners’ express common vision on social dialogue in the Sector

12 December 2014 - In a meeting of the EU-level Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee for ports, held in Brussels on 12 December 2014, social partners adopted a statement on their vision of social dialogue in the sector. Through such decalration, ETF, IDC, FEPORT and the ESPO’s delegation to the SSDC wish to confirm their commitment to social dialogue and their readiness to contribute, through their dialogue, to the improvement of working conditions and to the enhancement of the competitiveness of EU ports.

At the same time, social partners require the Commission to take note of their commitments and requests and to respect the ongoing social dialogue processes.
The statement is available here.

ETF Dockers Section backs campaign for employment in port of Rotterdam

11 December 2014 - At a meeting held in Brussels on 11 December 2014, the ETF Dockers’ Section agreed to support the campaign led by the Dutch affiliate FNV in cooperation with the ITF.

The union is striving to build a dialogue with the employers, the port authority and the local administration on the effects that the imminent opening of the terminals in Maasvlakte II will have on employment. ‘The new container terminals will considerably increase capacity in Rotterdam. There will certainly be an internal redistribution of the cargo handled. Furthermore, the new terminals are automated, so fewer people will be working there, said Niek Stam from FNV Havens. ‘The local government and the port authority have ignored our warnings and have refused to discuss the social consequences of port expansion. We estimate that more than 800 jobs in the container sector are at risk. This is going to be a social disaster and we call once again on the Municipality, the Port Authority and the employers to take their responsibility and open a dialogue with us’ concluded.

The statement adopted at the meeting is available here.

ECJ issued judgement on Spanish port labour schemes

11 December 2014 - While holding their Section meetings, ETF Dockers members have learnt that the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has issued its ruling on the infringement procedure against Spain on certain aspect of port labour organisation. "We’ll need time to analyse the ruling and its impact on working conditions” said Jorge Garcia Faerna, ETF Dockers’ Section Second Vice-Chair "The first reaction of the ETF is that infringement procedures as this one undermine social dialogue in ports, as they don’t respect an agreement between social partners".
Terje Samuelsen, ETF Dockers’ Section Chair, declared "We renew our request to the European Commission not to intervene on port labour, especially on schemes that are supported by employers and employees. We are ready to stand by our Spanish affiliates and to support all lawful initiative they will take, be it via dialogue or mobilisation, to protect the Spanish port system".

ETF Dockers back Solidarnosc action in Gdansk

11 December 2014 - The ETF Dockers’ Section received information about the organising campaign carried out by its affiliate Solidarnosc in the strategically placed DCT terminal in Gdansk, Poland and expressed its complete support for this initiative. ETF Dockers confirmed their readyness to provide all lawful active solidarity support to Solidarnosc should this be necessary to achieve union recognition and a collective bargaining agreement at the DCT.

Seafarer and docker union leaders warn European Commission over Euro ports plans

A meeting of key ITF (International Transport Workers’ Federation) member union decision makers in London issued a strong warning to the European Commission (EC) today over the future of the continent’s ports.

Docker and seafarer trade union leaders meeting at the ITF’s fair practices committee steering group called for a drastic re-examination of the EC’s handling of the vital national and international resources. Terje Samuelsen, Europe chair of the ITF dockers’ section and chair of the European Transport Workers’ Federation dockers’ section, explained: “The EC’s latest response to the early and justifiied demise of their  ports packages seems to be to actively foment infringement procedures against ports where social dialogue between employers and unions is working well. We don’t know whether it’s sour grapes or a desire to smuggle in a new port package under another name, but it’s putting the whole model of successful and productive dialogue at risk.

He promised: “Dockers across Europe will continue to ram home the point to the EC that ‘if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it’.” 

The resolution of the ITF fair practices committee steering group, which brings together dockers and seafarers’ unions from across the world, is as follows:

The ITF's Fair Practices Committee Steering Group meeting in London on 20th - 21st November 2014:

  • NOTES the persistent attempts to erode the job security and working conditions of dockworkers in Europe;
  • NOTES the infringement procedures that have been, or are about to be, initiated against a number of European governments, including in Spain and Belgium, to challenge the existing rights of dockworkers;
  • REGRETS that over the past few years, a climate fuelling complaints against port labour organisation schemes has been created in Europe;
  • CONDEMNS the direct and indirect attacks on the right to, and scope of, collective bargaining in the sector;
  • EXPRESSES its grave concern over the complete lack of transparency and accountability of the process by which such infringement procedures can be initiated, whereby anonymous complaints can be made via a website;
  • CHALLENGES misinformation about well-organised ports in Europe, which contrary to allegations by some parties, are cost effective, efficient and have a high rate of productivity, making sizeable contributions to the economy both at the national and European levels;
  • PLEDGES its continued support for European dockworker unions who are fighting for their members' livelihoods and rights;
  • CALLS ON the European Commission, European governments and employers to act transparently and in good faith, and to desist from actions that would undermine workers and their unions who are key social partners as well as the social dialogue in place at national and European level; and
  • CALLS on the European Commission, European governments and employers to instead focus on addressing the combined impacts of insufficient cargo growth, automation and overcapacity in European ports, and to work with unions to minimise the social consequences of this.

2011 Strike in Port of Koper lawful according to Slovenian Supreme Court

The Slovenian Supreme Court has judged that the strike undertaken by crane operators in the Port of Koper in August 2011 was lawful. It thereby rejects earlier decisions expressed by the General Labour Court and the Higher Court of Justice. 

The strike had been called by the ETF-affiliated SZPD (Crane Operators’ Union Of Port of Koper) following the breakdown of negotiations between the union and the employer over questions related to health and safety and job security. The 8-day long strike, during which the union received ETF’s support, ended after the decision of the port management to sit back at the negotiating table with the union. 

“This is a great victory for our union,” said Mladen Jovičič, SZPD General Secretary. “In 2011, the port of Koper experienced a very significant growth in tonnage which had coincided with a fall in working conditions and the breaking of maximum working hours restrictions. We called for the strike following the fact that accidents were happening almost daily and that contract workers were employed at substandard conditions. I believe this judgement is significant not only for Slovenia, but also for Europe, as we hear that in several EU countries the right to strike is being challenged.”

Port social dialogue adopts roadmaps on training and women’s employment

24 October 2014 - At their meeting held on 21 October 2014, the EU social partners in the port sector have adopted a document setting the objectives of their future work on training and qualifications.  The social partners’ main aim is to develop guidelines for the establishment of training requirements that take into consideration the future training needs of the sector in light of technological and logistical changes and changes in customer demand. Recommendations on women’s employment in the sector were also agreed upon during the meeting. These recommendations engage social partners at European, national and local level to cooperate in order to promote equal opportunities and support female employment in the sector.

Council’s deal on PSR even less social than Commission’s proposal

20 October 2014 - This is, in brief,  the opinion expressed by the ETF Dockers’ Section after having examined the agreement reached by the Council on 8 October on the proposed regulation on market access to port services (Ports Services Regulation or PSR) and financial transparency of ports.

The ETF had expressed a quite negative judgement on the latest port policy proposal from the Commission, which it appeals to reject, but had nevertheless acknowledged the efforts made in the European Parliament to try to improve the social dimension of the text.

The concerns we have voiced since the publication of the draft regulation are still there, and we’ll keep asking the European Parliament to reject the proposal” , said Livia Spera, ETF Political Secretary for Dockers. “Even though we acknowledge that the European Parliament has tackled some of the elements which we have criticised, it is disappointing to note that the Council has disregarded certain improvements. For instance, introducing the exclusion of industrial actions amongst the causes for taking emergency measures in case of disruption of services, adding social standards amongst the minimum requirements to be met by the service providers and obliging a wider application of the legislation on workers’ rights in case of transfer of undertakings. Our members are deeply concerned about this outcome and will keep monitoring closely the legislative process.”

ETF supports locked out dockers in Mosjøen

18 October 2014 - On 18 October, ETF Political  Secretary for Dockers joined, along with affiliated organisations, the rally in support of the locked out dockworkers in Mosjøen, Norway.

The demonstration was organised to show international support to the local branch of ETF affiliate NTF (Norsk Transportarbeiderforbund), fighting for the workers to be reinstated.

When addressing the rally, Livia Spera said: “We are here today to deliver the solidarity of more than 2.5 million workers from 41 countries. Dockworkers’ rights are being attacked in Norway and all over Europe, as are workers in the other transport modes. Your fight is not just about the dockers in Mosjøen, but it’s about all of us, it concerns every single transport worker in Europe. For this, the ETF will keep supporting you by all means to stop these attacks on workers rights.”

Call for solidarity: Norwegian dockers locked out from MIT terminal

6 October 2014 - On 18 October 2014 a rally will take place in Mosjøen, Norway, in solidarity with the dockworkers of the local MIT (Mosjøen Industri Terminal)  terminal, locked out from their workplace since the 8th of May 2014. ETF and its members will join its affiliate NTF (Norwegian Transport Workers’ Union) to support the local workers.

As MIT was in arrear with the payment of the salaries to the dockworkers, earlier this year the local NTF branch requested the employer to pay the owed amount or at least to guarantee that the salaries would be paid within a reasonable delay. After not having received an answer from the employers, on the 8th of May dockworkers refused to work until the payments would not be settled. MIT’s reaction to this action was to withdraw the workers’ ISPS (International Ship and Port Facility Security) cards and therefore lock them out.

ETF Dockers’ Section Chair, Terje Samuelsen said ‘It is unacceptable that security measures thought to fight terrorism are used to lockout workers from their workplace. Mosjøen dockworkers are locked out for having refused to work without being guaranteed their pay. This is just one of the disputes currently involving dockworkers in Norway and we call on all transport workers’ unions in Europe to keep showing their solidarity as they have done in the recent past.’

A complaint to the Norwegian Labour Court against MIT has been submitted by NTF.

For information on the demonstration or for sending solidarity messages to the locked-out workers, please send an email to:

Negotiations for CBA renewals concluded for Belgian ports

6 May 2014 - On 28 April 2014, the Belgian Joint Committee on Ports, composed of the workers’ unions (ABVV-BTB, ACV Transcom and ACVLB) and the employers’ association, signed the renewal of the collective bargaining agreement for Belgian ports. The agreement includes clauses that will allow workers’ purchasing power to be in line with inflation, notably through a lump sum premium of EUR 500 gross for all dockworkers of the General Register, the Logistic Register and the Craftsmen. Social partners have also agreed that port workers will keep enjoying measures to improve the quality of working life, notably on seniority and mobility for the rest of the duration of the current agreement.
The three Belgian unions have expressed satisfaction for the results of the negotiations, which took place in the general context of the crisis and of the austerity measures imposed by the Government.

Solidarity rally in Norway as port strike enters sixth month

3 April 2014 - ITF and ETF affiliates are being asked to show their support for Norwegian dockers who will hold a rally this weekend as strikes continue in ports across the country.

A call has gone out to unions to attend, or send letters to the Norwegian Transport Workers' Union (NTF), to demonstrate their solidarity with workers who are fighting to maintain the protected status of dockers’ work. The rally will be held on Saturday 5 April in YoungsTorget Square, Oslo with hundreds of people expected to attend.
Under International Labour Organization (ILO) convention 137, and the ITF dockers' clause, no worker other than a trained, professional docker can carry out loading and unloading work. In contravention of this, some employers in Norway have declared intentions to make use of seafarers to carry out cargo handling duties.
Chair of the ETF dockers’ section Terje Samuelsen said: “The only demand of the NTF is that the employer stick to the conditions of the national agreement. Basically, our only requirement is that dockers should have the preferential right to unload and load work and seafarers should not handle cargo. Employers have decided to take away this right from the dockers.

“This is an attack on our rights. In other words, this is the introduction of Ports package 3! Losing this dispute would mean giving up the national agreement, the rights of dockers to handle cargo in accordance with ILO 137, to which Norway is a signatory, and ripping up the ITF dockers’ clause.”

View the rally invite here >>

Send your letters of support to:

Visit the solidarity page >>

European Commission sends notice on organisation of port labour in Belgium

2 April 2014 - On Friday 28 March 2014, the European Commission sent a notice to Belgium on the organisation of port labour in Belgian ports, which would allegedly infringe the rules of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). This is the first step towards the opening of an infringement procedure, which has been lengthily announced.

Apparently, the notice follows the complaints introduced by an employer operating within the port of Antwerp, who is apparently in very close contact with the European Commission and who has recently invested in the Baltic area.

ETF Dockers’ Political Secretary Livia Spera said: “This notice does not come as a surprise: some members and services of the European Commission have been openly encouraging the presentation of complaints on port labour. Belgium has been for many years a target for all those who see good working conditions as an impediment to competitiveness. Having failed twice to liberalise port labour through legislation in the recent past, court cases are now being used to weaken social protection of port workers. We firmly condemn the hypocritical  attitude of the European Commission, which declares its support to the development of social dialogue in the sector and at the same time encourages the presentation of complaints. The opening of court cases will only trigger social unrest in ports.”  

In 2012 a reasoned opinion on the organisation of port labour was sent to Spain, which resulted in the opening of an infringement procedure.

We have the impression that some would like to see port work getting back to the beginning of the 20th century” declared Terje Samuelsen, ETF Dockers’ Chair. “The current labour organisation systems in many European ports have been set to avoid casualisation and to guarantee fair working conditions and continuity of employment, while ensuring the flexibility that port operations require. European Dockers are ready to stand by their Belgian comrades and will do everything to stop the growing trend towards liberalisation of port labour.”

The notice comes only two days after the conclusion of the first round of negotiations between social partners on the actualisation of port labour in Belgian ports, which were conducted with the support of the Belgian Ministry of Employment. According to declarations from the Belgian social partners, further negotiations are to be expected in the future.

Dispute escalates in Belgium as attack on EU dockers continues

26 March 2014 - The Europe-wide fight to protect dockers' work is continuing as a dispute in the port of Antwerp, Belgium escalates.

The ETF and ITF are supporting affiliated unions throughout the region as they deal with attacks via European Union and national legislation, and direct through employers.

The Common Trade Union Front for the Port of Antwerp (GVHA) which represents ABVV-BTB, ACV Transcom and ACLVB, is involved in a conflict with employer LOGISPORT over attempts to undermine  the status of port workers which is protected by the Belgian Law on Port Labour.

More than 250 dockers have been involved in action on 12 March, including blockades at the gate of Katoennatie in quay 1227. The GVHA has outlined its intention to take further action if management fails to meet union representatives around the negotiating table.

A statement from the GVHA said: "We have never been known for going ahead with  reckless actions; we have always tried to find a solution by means of industrial consultation. However, the statements and letters originating from Mr HUTS (of LOGISPORT) in the course of recent months leave us with no other choice."

Following industrial action by GVHA members in June 2013 regarding the non-compliance to the port labour legislation by LOGISPORT, an agreement was made to find a solution through social dialogue. To date, despite mediation by a Joint Subcommittee, attempts by GVHA to enter into open negotiation with management have failed.

The statement concluded: "We will not allow the status of dock labour to be undermined by unreliable individuals. Therefore we give today a clear warning to Mr HUTS and LOGISPORT: Start the social dialogue! Show some respect for our Law on Dock Labour!"

In the meantime there is concern that a ruling later in March could find the Belgium national port law in breach of EU laws governing port work. Allegedly it comes following complaints from some employers in the port of Antwerp which have been sympathetically received by the European Commission.

ETF dockers' section secretary Livia Spera said: "The ETF and ITF are united in criticising the attitude of the Euopean Commission which, over the last years has been prompting the presentation of complaints on the organisation of port labour. This is not coherent with the declared intention to support social dialogue, as infringement procedures and court cases only contribute to social unrest and the triggering of disputes."

Watch this film on the dockers' fightback >>

EP to resume discussion on PSR after European elections

17 March 2014 - Today, Monday 17 March 2014, the European Parliament’s (EP) Transport Committee will announce that the debate on the Port Services Regulation (PSR) will be put on hold to be resumed after the European Elections. The decision was taken by the Rapporteur jointly with the shadow Rapporteurs and the political groups. The reasons given for the postponement of the debate are the tight time frame, the lack of a joint vision among the political groups on the market access chapter and the need to link the regulation to the ongoing initiatives on modernisation of state aid.

The ETF has already expressed its criticisms over the draft regulation (see the articles “ETF presents opinion on port liberalisation in public hearing” and “ETF adopts its position on Port Services Regulation”). The difficulties encountered by the political groups to find compromises on some of the central parts of the proposal show how the draft regulation is inappropriate and that market access is not seen as a priority by many policy-makers and stakeholders.

Livia Spera, ETF Political Secretary comments: “The Rapporteur and his colleagues have done a good job trying to improve the proposal. But we still lack a substantial improvement of the protections to the workers in the sectors that are included in the market access chapter. Social protection cannot be an option, they should be applied compulsorily and in a uniform way to all workers employed in technical-nautical services. The ETF will keep working with the new Parliament to make sure its view is integrated once the debate will be resumed.”

Solidarity action for Norwegian dockers on 5 April

The Norwegian national Dock Workers branch of the Norsk Transportarbeiderforbund organises an afternoon of solidarity to show support for dockers on strike in Norway. The activity takes place on Saturday 5 April 2014 in Oslo and will be attended by, among others, the ETF President Lars Lindgren. You can download the invitation here and read more about the situation of the Norwegian dockworkers here.

Agreement between SETC and employers re-launches negotiations in Portuguese ports

During a meeting held in Lisbon on 14 February 2014, the Dockers’ union SETC and the port operators’ associations AOP and AOPL have reached an agreement which puts on hold the industrial actions that have been taken by Portuguese dockers over the last two years. (click here for an overview of the causes and history of the dispute)

Social partners, which met at the presence of a representative of the Portuguese port authorities, have agreed that:

  • The term for the negotiations of the Collective Bargaining Agreement would be extended until September;
  • The 47 dismissed workers would be reinstated, as permanent or as casual workers;
  • No more workers will be employed in the alternative labour pool. The 21 already employed will be a part of the existing labour pool as casuals;
  • Hiring priority will be given to professional dockworkers, then to the reinstated casual workers and eventually to the new employees from the new labour pool;
  • Lawsuits to the employers and to the union will be suspended;
  • More professional training will be provided to all workers;
  • Social partners agreed to maintain social peace during the negotiation of the collective agreement.

ETF Dockers’ Section Chair, Terje Samuelsen commented: ‘This is a great step forward for the Portuguese unions and excellent news for all European Dockers. Once again, the pressure put by international solidarity played a crucial contribution to the achievement of this result. We will keep doing our best to ensure that all the other current disputes, notably the ones in Norway, are settled with such a positive outcome.’

Over the last months ETF and its members have supported the Portuguese dockers through political and industrial actions in several European countries.

ETF joins Portuguese delegation in expressing dockers’ concerns to MEPs

On 11 February 2013, ETF General Secretary Eduardo Chagas took part in a delegation made of representatives of the Portuguese union SETC and of the IDC, which met Portuguese Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from different political groups at the European Parliament in Brussels. The purpose of the meetings was to raise awareness of the negative effects of the new Portuguese port law on dockers’ working and social conditions.

The delegations met MEPs from the EPP, S&D and GUEN/NGL group. One of the messages passed was on the impossibility to establish a dialogue with the government, notwithstanding the requests advanced by the unions and the requests put forward by trade unions to Portuguese embassies in many EU countries over the last weeks.

The meetings took place on the eve of the vote, by the EMPL Committee, on a report from MEP Cercas on Employment and social aspects of the role and operations of the Troika. The requests of the Troika are notably at the origin of the liberalisation process implemented in Portugal.

The ETF and its affiliates will keep supporting the campaign led by the Portuguese dockers. European dockworkers will meet in Lisbon on 5 March to show international solidarity to the local unions.

Spanish unions and workers in AMPT in Rotterdam back Portuguese Dockers’ struggle

On 6 February, ETF affiliates unions FSC CCOO, TCM UGT together with GIC and CETM organised several actions to raise attention over the struggle carried out by Portuguese dockers

A delegation met the Portuguese Ambassador in Madrid and handed over a letter stating the concerns of the Spanish unions over the situation in Portugal and presenting a series of demands from the Portuguese dockworkers’ union to the governement. A two-hour strike was also organised in all Spanish ports, as an additional demonstration of solidarity to workers in Portugal. 

The Spanish unions further confirmed their intention to keep supporting their Potuguese comrades in the future. 

Further to the actions that have already been organised over the last month by ETF Dutch member FNV Bondgenoten, on 6 February dockworkers at the APM terminal Rotterdal BV held an information meeting to discuss the situation in Portugual and renew their support to the demands of the Portuguese unions. 

A video produced by FSC CCOO explaining the reasons of the actions taken in the various countries is available here

Pictures of actions taken by ETF affiliates in support of the Portuguese workers are available here.

Information day in German ports on situation of Portuguese dockworkers

In the framework of the solidarity actions to show international support to the Portuguese dockworkers, the ETF-affiliated union ver.di has organised an information day in the German ports of Hamburg, Bremerhaven and Bremen. According to ETF Dockers’ Section Vice-Chair and Port sector responsible within ver.di, Klaus Lindner ‘the number of actions that are being carried out in European ports to support the Portuguese union confirm the long-lasting solidarity amongst European dockworkers and their unions. The shift of the attempts to deregulate port labour from the EU to the national level is not weakening the European Dockers’ unity.’

Pictures of the actions are available here.

Belgian ETF affiliates inform dockers about the situation in Portugal

On 4 February ETF affiliated unions BTB-ABVV, ACV Transcom and ACVLB held actions in the Belgian ports to raise awareness amongst dockworkers of the disputes in Portuguese ports. During the meetings with the workers the three unions explained that the Portuguese situation has to be framed in a wider context where organisation of port labour and labour rights are being challenged in several European countries.

The action is part of the solidarity campaign that is being carried out at European level by ETF and IDC affiliates to support the Portuguese dockers.

Pictures of the actions taken over the last month are available here.

ETF presents opinion on port liberalisation in public hearing

The European Commission clings to market opening as the miracle recipe to improve ports’ efficiency without taking the reality into account.” That was one of the main messages of Livia Spera, ETF Political Secretary at the public hearing on further liberalisation of port services, organised by the Parliamentary Group GUE/NGL (European United Left/Nordic Green Left) in Brussels on Wednesday 29 January 2014.

The Parliamentary Group set up this public hearing to raise awareness among MEPs and other stakeholders about the negative impact the Commission’s new draft regulation COM(2013)0296 would have on port services. “The European Parliament has to be proud of the rejection of Port Package I & II and we are now asking you to support the resistance against the new draft regulation,” stated the invitation letter to the public hearing.

Why reject the new draft regulation?
Next to speakers from political groups, trade unions and other involved parties, Livia Spera took the floor to elaborate on ETF’s arguments why the new draft regulation has to be rejected. In the view of the ETF, the European Commission is trying to start over the process, following the attempts via the rejected port packages I & II, by tackling the controversial items in different stages, starting with market access to technical-nautical services. Eventually, cargo handling would be tackled next.

She explained why the ETF opposes the Commission’s approach and rationale behind this proposal. The Federation criticises the weakness of the social dimension of the draft regulation and questions the economic viability and the added value of opening of the market for technical-nautical services. Although several MEPs are working towards an improvement of the draft regulation, the discussions amongst the political groups seem at the moment not to make much progress. Attention was raised also on the fact that liberalisation of port labour is currently being dealt with at national level, either through the imposition of liberalisation plans from international financial institutions or via the opening of infringement procedures. She concluded with renewing ETF’s opposition to the proposal and renewed the Federation’s willingness to share its views with the Parliament.

The hearing was attended by several ETF members from Italy, Belgium, Spain, the UK, Sweden and Croatia who took the floor to witness how the regulation would negatively impact the workers employed in the sector.

ETF affiliates target Portuguese embassies to address dockers’ deteriorating working conditions

In the context of the solidarity campaign called by the ETF (European Transport Workers’ Federation) and IDC (International Dockworkers’ Council) to support dockers in Lisbon, ETF affiliates have been arranging meetings with and sending protest letters to Portuguese embassies in Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Latvia, The Netherlands, Romania, Spain and the UK. Affiliates from other countries have scheduled similar events. Today, Tuesday 28 January 2014, a delegation of Belgian ETF affiliates and ETF Political Secretary Livia Spera met with the Portuguese ambassador in Brussels to discuss the most urgent demands of the workers’ unions.

Port law liberalises dock labour on the dockers’ expense

The Portuguese government has adopted a new port law on 1 February 2013, which raises grave concerns with European dockworkers’ unions affiliated to the ETF and the IDC. The reform of the Dock Labour Code initiates the liberalisation of dock labour and progressively deteriorates the labour conditions at the Portuguese ports, in particular at the port of Lisbon where 47 dockworkers have been dismissed with no rightful motives. Moreover, the law is in breach of the principles expressed by the ILO Convention 137 on Dock Work, which has been ratified by Portugal.

Negotiations between the social partners aiming to reach a comprehensive collective bargaining agreement have been deliberately frozen by the employers’ associations and a new labour pool has been created to employ alternative low-income non-union workforce. The European dockworkers now increase the pressure on the Portuguese Government via their ambassadors to promote a meaningful dialogue between the unions and the port employers and to put an end to all the union-busting tactics. Both ETF and IDC have reaffirmed their commitment to continue joining forces and to defend the legitimate struggles of dockworkers in Portugal and throughout Europe.

Additional information on the Portuguese dockworkers’ struggle is available here.

You can read the press release issued with regards to the Portuguese port workers' situation here.

You can download the ETF-IDC statement on the issue here.

Pictures from the actions taken by ETF affiliates in the different countries are available here.

ETF and IDC support Norway rally for striking dockers

The campaign to support Norwegian dockers on strike over the need for a national dock register is escalating.

Two hundred supporters from all over Scandinavia attended the national rally, which took place at the Cafe Theatre in Oslo last week, with backing from the European Transport Workers' Federation (ETF) and affiliated unions, and members of the International Dockworkers’ Council (IDC).

The Norwegian Transport Workers' Federation (NTF) organised the event following the failure of port employers to sign up to a register which would guarantee unloading and loading work is ring fenced for dockers. Three strikes are currently ongoing as part of the dispute, in Tromso, Mosjoen and Risavika.

Under International Labour Organization (ILO) convention 137, and the ITF dockers' clause, no worker other than a trained, professional docker can carry out loading and unloading work. In contravention of this, some employers in Norway have declared intentions to make use of seafarers to carry out cargo handling duties. An international delegation, including ETF president Lars Lindgren visited the terminal late last year to express solidarity with the workers.

Speaking at the latest rally, NTF head and chair of the ETF dockers’ section Terje Samuelsen linked the dispute to the wider attacks on dockers' unions at a European and international level. He explained: "Port employers across Europe are challenging the rights of dockers to carry out the work that they have been doing for hundreds of years. All of this in the name of profit. Dockers have fought for years for their right to decent work and we will continue to fight against this race to the bottom by greedy employers. Norway is not a member of the European Union and we see these attacks as a way of trying to start a ports package 3 by going around the social dialogue and implementing it in Norway. We can't allow this to happen and therefore we will do whatever is possible within the law to stop these attacks."

To show your support for dockers in Norway visit the solidarity page >>

For more information on ILO convention 137 watch this film >>

ETF and IDC confirm their support to Portuguese Dockers

Following a recently adopted statement, on 8 January a delegation of the ETF Dockers’ Section has met in Lisbon with representatives of the IDC to set up a solidarity campaign to support the Portuguese dockworkers’ unions.

Conditions for dockworkers in Portugal have been deteriorating since the new port law has entered into force.

The law is a consequence of the request by the Troika (European Commission, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank) to liberalise Portuguese ports against the allocation of financial aid to the country.

Over the next months, ETF and IDC unions will be showing solidarity with the Portuguese dockworkers’ unions.
Additional information on the Portuguese dockworkers’ struggle is available here.

You can read the press release issued with regards to the Portuguese port workers' situation here.

Dockworkers urged to support 13 January action week for Port of Lisbon

The European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF) and International Dockworkers’ Council (IDC) have pledged their support in a meeting on 17 December, for dockworkers in Lisbon who have been under prolonged attack from their government and employers.
Working conditions for Portuguese dockworkers, particularly those at the port of Lisbon, have been deteriorating since the government adopted the new Port Law on 1 February this year. The ETF and IDC heard reports that the bargaining process has been frozen, and that employers have attempted to establish a new labour pool of non-union workers to replace existing professional dockworkers. On top of this, 47 dockworkers at Lisbon port have reportedly been dismissed with no rightful reason.
The ETF and IDC promised to support the union in tackling these deteriorating conditions, particularly to press for social dialogue, an end to union-busting, and the reinstatement of the 47 dismissed dockworkers as key aims for the campaign.  Both organisations and the ITF see the Portuguese situation as part of a bigger challenge faced by dockworkers all over Europe.  European legislation and infringement mechanisms have been used to try to undermine national laws and dockers’ conditions elsewhere including in Spain and Greece.  More recently, the Belgian government has also come under pressure.
The campaign will pick up during the week of 13 January, when dockworkers across Europe are due to take action at their local Portuguese embassy.  Affiliates are urged to show their support for the workers in Lisbon and their determination to defend the rights of dockworkers across Europe by seeking to meet with the head of the embassy and staff responsible for labour relations to highlight the concerns above.  Legal rallies and protests are also encouraged.  Please send photographs of your action and messages of support for the Lisbon dockers to
Get the full statement from the ETF/IDC here

ETF President in support of striking workers in Risavika

On 27 November ETF President Lars Lindgren led an international delegation to express support to the workers at Risavika terminal in Norway.

A boycott of the terminal is going on since 1 November, due to the refusal of management to sign up to the national collective agreement and to their declared intention to make use of seafarers to carry out cargo handling duties.

The delegation included representatives of ETF/ITF affiliates Swedish Transport Workers’ Union, BTB, 3F and Solidarnosc who showed their full solidarity to the fight led by the Norwegian Transport Workers’ Union (NTF).

Addressing the workers at the terminal ETF President said: ‘This is one of several attacks that Dockers are facing all across Europe. We are all here today to show all our support to this boycott and to voice the condemnation of all European transport workers to the behaviour of the management at Risavika. We will keep supporting NTF, as we cannot accept social dumping in our ports.’

Amongst other solidarity actions carried out by ETF affiliates in support of the boycott, there was a gathering in front of the Norwegian embassy in Brussels organised by ACV-Transcom.

For more information on how to support the boycott in Risavika, please visit the solidarity page.

Support grows for Norwegian dockers’ boycott

ETF- and ITF-affiliated transport unions from across Denmark, Sweden and Norway have pledged their support to dockers in Risavika Terminal who are now in the second week of their boycott.

Members of the Norwegian Transport Workers’ Union (NTF) began action in Risavika, near Stavanger, on 1 November, over the refusal of management to sign up to the national collective agreement covering dockworkers.

Instead employer Risavika Terminal AS, is said to be proposing to use seafarers to carry out cargo handling duties, in direct contravention of the ITF dockers’ clause which states that ship’s crew should not carry out work historically or traditionally done by dockers.

During the Scandinavian transport workers’ conference, 186 participants gave their full support to the NTF. In addition, dockers’ unions across Europe and worldwide have rallied to back workers in Risavika since the boycott began. Letters of solidarity have been sent from unions across the ETF and ITF regions.

A message from the NTF sent out to all ETF and ITF affiliates this week also urged dockers’ unions across Europe and worldwide, to be involved directly, or via lawful solidarity action, in a demonstration planned in Risavika on Wednesday 27 November. 

Chair of the ETF dockers’ committee with NTF Terje Samuelsen said: “The support being given to dockers here in Norway is invaluable. The struggle for an agreement at Risavika is just one example of the attack on dockers in Europe and around the world, and standing together to face that kind of threat head on is crucial. Companies want to erode good working conditions in our docks, crush unions and increase profits, but we can’t and won’t allow that to happen.”

For more on what you can do go to the solidarity page >>

Keep up to date on the latest developments in this dispute via the ITF Facebook page >>

ETF adopts its position on Port Services Regulation

The ETF has published its response to the Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council ‘Establishing a framework on market access to port services and financial transparency of ports’ (COM[2013] 296 final) and the Communication from the Commission on Ports: an engine for growth (COM[2013] 295 final).

While supporting the Commission’s aim to contribute to the goal of a more efficient, interconnected and sustainable functioning of the TEN-T, the ETF asks for the directive to be rejected, as the measures it proposed will not contribute achieving the above-mentioned objectives.

After the defeat of Port Packages I and II, the Commission comes again with the idea of opening the market for technical-nautical services. The ETF keeps opposing this proposal as it did in the past, since it does not see the need for opening the market for these services, some of which are services of general economic interest whose provisions entail maritime safety and environmental protection considerations.

Amongst other criticisms that ETF expresses in its paper there are the fact that the Commission’s proposals contain attacks to the right to strike, to the autonomy of European social partners and do not put forward adequate protections for workers.

The paper is accompanied by a detailed review of the impact assessment prepared by the European Commission prior to the publication of its proposals.

The two texts are available here.

Successful strike called by ETF affiliates in Italian ports

On November 8, Italian ports have been paralysed by a 24-hour strike called by ETF affiliated unions FILT-CGIL, FIT-CISL and Uiltrasporti. The mobilisation comes after delays in the renewal of the collective labour agreement at national level.

The three unions also want to raise awareness about a revision of the current ports law, that should focus on labour issues and social rights. 

Moreover, FILT, FIT and Uiltrasporti urge the Parliament and the Italian Government to adopt solutions for a sustainable relaunch of the Italian ports’ system, by means of a full consultation and meaningful dialogue also with the representatives of port workers.

Unite campaign escalates as first vessel calls at London Gateway

European dockers’ unions are showing support for ETF affiliate Unite, as they continue their campaign for trade union rights at London Gateway, which has officially opened for business this week.  The first vessel docked at the new DPW operated terminal on Wednesday night (5 November) to be met by a demonstration. A Unite delegation has gone on to meet the vessel at its next port of call in Rotterdam, where further actions will be staged with the backing of the local union, ETF affiliated FNV Bondgenoten. On Tuesday, 30 representatives from European dockers’ unions affiliated to the ETF and the International Dockworkers’ Council, met at the Unite offices in London and released a statement pledging support. The statement reads: “The meeting agreed that the behaviour exhibited by DP World at London Gateway was symptomatic of a wider attack on trade unions in the European ports sector. The meeting resolved to coordinate support for UNITE the Union by all lawful means to achieve its legitimate demands for union recognition at London Gateway and to ensure that DPW London Gateway re-commits to the process of negotiation with UNITE to allow a timetable to be developed jointly which covers union access and company neutrality.” Practical support from other European unions has also been secured with various actions expected over the coming weeks at ports receiving vessels from London Gateway.

Dockers’ jobs under threat in Norwegian terminal

In order to save costs, the employers at the Risavika Terminal near Stavanger, Norway, refuse to sign up to the national agreement that covers dockworkers. Instead, the employers propose to use seafarers to carry out cargo handling duties. On Friday, 1 November 2013, the Norwegian Transport Workers’ Union (NTF) has started a boycott in the concerned terminal, demanding the application of the national collective agreement.

ETF Chair of the Dockers’ Section and Chair of the Dockers’ Section within NTF, Terje Samuelsen, reacts: “This is not only a clear breach of the ITF agreement that protects dockworkers, it is again an attempt by employers to cut costs on the expense of European dockers and on the expense of the health and safety standards applicable in ports. Cargo handling is a dangerous job which should only be undertaken by trained dockers. When seafarers are commanded to execute dockers’ work on top of their existing duties, it will lead to fatigue and major safety issues.”

The Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise has tried twice to stop NTF’s boycott via court. It has however lost both cases and, moreover, the Supreme Court has given NTF the right to use the boycott as a legitimate means to bargain for the collective agreement.

We call all ETF affiliates to express their solidarity and support to the fight in the Risavika terminal. It is one of the numerous attacks dockers are facing in Europe that undermines their jobs, exploits seafarers and leads to social dumping practices, which the ETF will always strongly oppose. All attacks at national level will be dealt with by ETF dockers as European issues” Terje Samuelsen concludes.

The Norwegian Maritime Unions have declared their support for the boycott as well as affiliates from around the Baltic Sea area attending a recent ITF meeting, ‘The Conference of Ten’, held in Copenhagen on 29 October 2013.

Victory for dockers in Rotterdam

Workers in the Port of Rotterdam have secured a new agreement with their employer, global network terminal operator (GNT) APMT, following weeks of tense negotiations and industrial action.

FNV Bondgenoten had been in dispute with management over the terms and conditions of a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) at the Maasvlakte II terminal, but has now finalised a favourable set of terms for workers.
When dockers in Rotterdam started their action, Maersk Line diverted ships to Antwerp. The union has thanked dockers from across Europe for their solidarity during the dispute.  National secretary of FNV ports Niek Stam said, “We acknowledge that we wouldn’t be able to realise this without the support of the unions. To negotiate without pressure on cargo is impossible”. During a meeting last week members of both the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF) and International Dockworkers Council (IDC) pledged their support, and individual actions have been carried out in the days leading up to the agreement.
The United Dockworkers’ Unions Front in Belgium showed solidarity through the delay of several Maersk vessels in Antwerp and the distribution of materials letting crews know about the situation in Rotterdam.
Actions also took place in Gothenburg, Arhuus, Germany and Poland. APMT unions in the Arab World also stood ready to take action, when news of the agreement came.
ITF president and dockers’ section chair Paddy Crumlin said: “We welcome the outcome of these negotiations. Despite a challenging environment, both sides have come to the table and the result is positive for workers.
“There have been strong displays of solidarity around this dispute and we can now see the very real impact of those actions. Standing together we can achieve a great deal and this latest success is a clear example of that.”

View pictures of solidarity action by Belgian dockers’ unions here.

European dockers’ unions in solidarity over Rotterdam dispute

European dockers’ unions have pledged their support for workers in the Port of Rotterdam, Netherlands, who face an ongoing dispute with management over negotiation of a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

During a meeting in Antwerp last week, unions affiliated to the European arm of the ITF, the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF), along with members of the International Dockworkers Council (IDC), were informed about the FNV Bondgenoten dispute with global network terminal operator (GNT) APM terminals, over CBA terms and conditions at the APMTR Maasvlakte II terminal.

It is understood that Maersk Line is diverting all ships with destination APMTR Rotterdam to the port of Antwerp or other European ports.

In a statement, the European dockworkers’ unions said:

“(We) declare to be ready to take all lawful actions in European ports to support the struggle that the Dutch Dockworkers union FNV Bondgenoten is carrying out in the Netherlands to negotiate a fair agreement for their members.” Read the statement here.

ITF president and chair of the dockers’ section Paddy Crumlin said: “European dock workers are standing up in solidarity for their brothers and sisters in Rotterdam. We understand a meeting between FNV and management is scheduled for next week. We welcome that, but if it doesn't end in a decent solution then unions will be meeting again to see where we go from there.”

Get more information in this FNV dispute summary here.

ETF responds to EU port labour study

In 2010 the European Commission tasked Portius, a consortium of port lawyers which acts in partnership with a number of employers’ organisations in the maritime sector, with carrying out a survey on port labour in the EU. The final report on the result of the study was published in September 2013.

The ETF’s response to the report confirms the Federation’s unease with the study, which has been already expressed when the Commission first announced the contract to tender.

Through a detailed analysis of the Portius report the ETF shows that:

  • Portius has clearly redefined the terms of reference of the study, focusing on ‘restriction on employment’ instead of ‘port labour arrangements’, as it was requested in the tender, and giving limited space to training and health and safety aspects of port labour.
  • The Portius report displays bias throughout in respect of language and of the selective collection and presentation of data.
  • Instead of presenting an objective review of the legal position in EU ports, the Portius report is more concerned to provide ammunitions to those who might want to challenge port labour arrangements, inciting social conflict rather than inducing social dialogue.

The full report is available here.

ETF Dockers’ Section Steering Committee renews its support to Portuguese Dockers

The ETF Dockers’ Section Steering Comittee meeting on 18 September 2013 in Brussels was informed about the deteoriating situation for port workers in Portugal following the recent liberalisation of dock labour and the reform of the Dock Labour Code. The ETF Dockers Section Steering Committee:

Expresses its solidarity with the Portuguese port workers and their unions in their ongoing struggle to fight back against the devastating effects of the liberalisation and reform which has seen dramatic impact on their working conditions and the social fabric of their port communities;

Condemns the unjustified and persistent attacks on their right to strike and their right to take collective action. These are rights enshrined in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and are rights which are at the core of International Labour Standards;

Confirms the ETF Dockers Section and its affiliated unions stand ready to support their struggle through all lawful means to ensure that justice and fairness prevail;

Is committed to continuing cooperative working and to join forces with the International Dockworkers Council to defend the legitimate struggles of dockworkers in Portugal and throughout Europe.

Antwerp port strike ends following agreement over dockers’ work

A strike in the Port of Antwerp, Belgium which began after union delegates were refused entry to a warehouse during a routine inspection, has come to an end.

ITF- and ETF-affiliated unions ACV Transcom, ABVV-BTB, ACLVB were all involved in the action which ran for six days from 26 June. The unions stopped all cargo at Katoen Natie terminal after delegates were barred from entering a warehouse where they suspected non-dockworker agency staff from Poland were doing dockers’ work. It is thought this was being facilitated through transshipment and goods storage company, Logisport.

Following a strained second conciliation attempt between unions and the Katoen Natie Group that lasted for more than nine hours, a satisfactory agreement was reached which stipulates that no retaliation measures will be taken following the strike and that all compensation claims against the dock workers will be abandoned. The Social Inspection Services of the Federal Government Administration was present to establish any violations of the Law on Dock Labour, which restricts dock work to registered dock labourers. It was agreed that social dialogue between the unions and the employer over the conclusions of the social inspection services and the Law on Docker Labour will take place and issues will be addressed and resolved by 31 October 2013.

A recommendation was also made by the mediator that the employer comply with the Law on Dock Labour and look at its use of companies like Logisport, which was specifically refered to.

Marc Loridan, federal secretary of the ports of Belgium BTB said: “We would like to thank dock workers in Antwerp, for their committment to bringing this difficult situation to a satisfactory ending and their efforts in helping to preserve the status of dock labourers. This is part of a wider attack on the dockers’ profession and it’s something that we’re just not prepared to accept.”

In a similar vein, general secretary for the maritime section of ACV Transcom Michel Claes said: “This case doesn’t stand in isolation. It sits within the framework of attacks coming from the European Commission and other powerful lobbies. The objective is to liberalise port labour and lower standards in order to lower costs for port users, that’s quite clear to us.”

ETF and ITF support fightback over potential change to Spanish port recruitment

The ETF and ITF have begun a consultation process with affiliated unions in Spain, to see how they can support them following news that changes could be made to the way dockworkers are recruited in Spanish ports. The European Commission (EC) is referring Spain to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) over the existing rules on hiring port labour in locations including Barcelona, Algeciras, Valencia and Bilbao.

Currently, cargo handling companies hire port workers through private companies owned by employers in each port, rather than hiring them freely. The EC argues that cargo handling providers from other EU member states wishing to establish themselves in Spanish ports might be discouraged because of the current recruitment situation and that this hinders the exercise of the freedom of establishment.

Terje Samuelsen, chair of the ETF dockers’ section, said: “We can now see that the European Commission’s DG MOVE (directorate general for mobility and transport) is determined to continue the struggle to introduce port packagethree, this time not only through legislation but through the opening of court cases and the imposition of liberalisation of port labour as a condition to the allocation of rescue funds. They are now trying to justify themselves by using the court to actually say that social dumping is okay in ports in the EU!” He continued: “Dockers in Europe, with the support of rest of the world's dockers, will take up this fight and we are confident that we will win on this important issue.We will support our comrades in Spain in every possible way.”

The ETF and ITF renew their call to the Spanish government to effectively defend the system currently in place in Spanish ports before the CJEU. The current law is the result of extensive consultation of social partners, and both the employers and the unions keep being in favour of the system in place. In addition to the direct impact a change in the rules on Spanish port recruitment would have on Spanish dockers, there are also implications for dockers across the European Union. A decision in favour of the EC argument could set a precedent for concerns over private business and competition in the EU outweighing working issues like job security.

ETF conference emphasises the importance of collective bargaining in the port sector

On 27-28 June 2013 the final conference of the EU co-funded project ‘Monitoring the processes and outcome of collective bargaining in the EU port sector’ took place in Genoa, Italy.

More than 50 participants from 15 countries discussed the outcome of a report drafted by LRD (Labour Research Department) on behalf of the ETF.

The report presents the analysis of collective bargaining agreements at national, port or company level, signed by ETF members in 22 countries. The study also takes into account the result of a survey carried out through questionnaires and interviews with ETF affiliates.

Issues such as pay levels and structures, working time arrangements, training, protection of health and improvement of safety are examined in the framework of the project.

The report is at the moment being finalised and discussions are being held on the most appropriate ways to follow up the project in the near future.

European Social Dialogue Committee for Port Sector launched

Today, Wednesday 19 June 2013, the formal inauguration of the European Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee (SSDC) for the Port sector takes place in the Métropole Hotel in Brussels. It marks the end of 15 years of pushing for its establishment by the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF) that is already represented in six SSDCs. ETF Chair for the Dockers’ Section, Terje Samuelsen, states: “We look forward to contributing to a body in which both parties, notwithstanding their different views, are ready to engage in open and meaningful debates to improve the working conditions of our port workers.”

It was in 2007, after the defeat of to the two port packages and almost 10 years after ETF’s first request for its set-up, that the European employers’ organisations agreed on the principle to form a European Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee for Ports.

Terje Samuelsen comments: “After six years of hard work and overcoming many obstacles, I am very happy we have finally arrived to the launch of our Social Dialogue Committee. However, this is only the beginning. The real work to improve the sector and the living and working conditions of its workforce is yet to start.”

ETF Political Secretary for Dockers, Livia Spera, added: “European Social Dialogue only works if all involved social partners value it and if its work is backed by healthy and well developed social dialogues at national level. The ETF is ready to invest and engage in meaningful and open dialogue and expects the other organisations involved do likewise.

In the European Social Dialogue Committee for the Port Sector, the following social partners are represented: the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF), the International Dockworkers Council (IDC), the European Sea Ports Organisation (ESPO), the Federation of European Private Port Operators (FEPORT).

For more information, please contact Livia Spera, ETF Political Secretary:–Tel: +32 (0)470 93 05 89.

Dockers Fightback - Safeguarding European port jobs for the future

Ports have deeply changed over the past century and so has dock work. Dockers have shown to be able to adapt to the evolutions of the sector and to be central players in the transport chain.

The unity of the labour movement in ports has been key for achieving important victories and for improving working conditions and fight casual work. And unity and solidarity are what, once again, European dockers are calling for. Port labour organisation is again in the spotlight, and a new attempt  from the European Commission to liberalise port labour is expected in 2016. In the meantime, some EU countries have been forced to privatise their port sectors and to casualise port labour. An infringement procedure has been opened against Spain on the way port labour is organised and there are indications that other countries could soon be questioned on the same issue.

Amongst the other challenges affecting dockworkers and their unions there is the growing trend to increase automation and the need to ensure that more and more women join the sector.

A short film produced by ETF and ITF tells about all this. It can be viewed here.

ETF concerned about European Commission's proposals on port policy

On Thursday 23 May 2013, the European Commission adopted a Regulation (1) and a Communication called “Ports: an engine for growth”. The European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF) is satisfied with the fact that the Commission decided not to touch upon port labour organisation in the proposals adopted yesterday and that cargo-handling is excluded from market access rules. However, it is extremely concerned about the consequences that the proposals could have on the workers that the Federation represents in technical-nautical services, notably in pilotage, towage and mooring.

The ETF Dockers and Maritime Transport Sections have already started a joint debate on the future EU ports policy and are ready to join forces to make their voice and priorities heard by policy-makers.

Philippe Alfonso, ETF Political Secretary for Maritime Transport stated: “Some ETF maritime affiliates represent also workers in technical-nautical services. Our point of view is that any attempt to deregulate technical-nautical services should be strictly defined and controlled to avoid marine casualties that would pose a threat to the marine environment and put human lives at risk. Indeed, we should avoid a situation where safety at sea would be sacrificed to competition and profit with a view to serve specific interests rather than the broader public interest”.

Even if dock labour is not included in the new regulation it is clear that liberalisation of port labour is still on the Commission’s agenda,” said the ETF Dockers’ Section Chair Terje Samuelsen. “The strategy seems to have changed,” he continued, “as we have passed from comprehensive one-size-fits-all proposals to targeted interventions at national level. Furthermore, in its Communication the Commission clearly indicates its intention to come back on the issue of port labour in 2016. European dockers remain vigilant and are ready to fight back any attempt to deregulate their professions”.

A position paper on the Commission’s proposals will be issued in the near future after an in-depth analysis of the draft Communication and Regulation.

(1) Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a framework on market access to port services and financial transparency of ports – COM(2013) 296 final – 2013/0157 (COD)

For further information, please contact the ETF Political Secretaries for Maritime Transport, Philippe Alfonso (Tel: +32 (0)496 65 79 15; or for Ports, Livia Spera (Tel +32 470 930589; )

For more information please contact:
European Transport Workers' Federation
Rue du Marché aux Herbes 105, Boîte 11
B-1000 Bruxelles
Telephone: +32 (0)2 285 46 60
Fax: +32 (0)2 280 08 17

ETF statement on the accident in the Port of Genoa

The European Transport Workers' Federation (ETFi) joins its affiliates FILT-CGIL, FIT-CISL and UILTRASPORTI in expressing their solidarity to the families of the workers victims of the accident that happened yesterday, 7 May 2013, in the port of Genoa. Pending the conclusions of the investigation regarding the cause of the accident, the ETF reiterates its call to see the improvement of safety in European ports become a central element in the European Ports Policy, in the framework of which a legislative proposal will be published shortly. Incidents like the one in Genoa show that the priority should not be given to the liberalisation of technicalnautical services, but to make European ports safer for all those who work in the sector.

You can download here the ETF solidarity letter in English and Italian.

World dockers back London Gateway solution

17 April 2013

World dockers’ union representatives meeting in London today unanimously backed the involvement of Unite the Union at the London Gateway terminal.

Speaking from the meeting of the ITF’s dockers’ section committee, which brings together ports union leaders from around the world, ITF president and dockers’ section chair Paddy Crumlin stated: “The situation is simple. London Gateway is a major DP World project. DP World is firmly on record as valuing the contribution of workers and unions. Unite the Union is equally committed to a positive outcome at London Gateway. The company should be talking to them right now about how to achieve that.”

ITF dockers’ section secretary Sharon James added: “There is a clear pathway to successful labour relations at London Gateway. Unite are on that pathway already. The ITF invites DP World to join them.”

The meeting passed the following resolution:

This meeting of the ITF Dockers’ Steering Committee, comprising seventeen dockers’ unions affiliated to the ITF, meeting in London on 17 April 2013;

Notes that London Gateway is a flagship terminal being developed by DP World.

Notes that Unite the Union has sought to engage DP World in a meaningful discussion over union recognition at London Gateway, most recently in a meeting with London Gateway management on 16 April 2013, and also on several previous occasions in the past 12 months.

Expresses concern that the management of London Gateway has not opened any constructive discussions with Unite the Union, and that this may be evidence of an intention to exclude trade unions from the terminal.

Notes that on the basis of previous discussions with DP World global management, that the ITF has received assurances that DP World values co-operative relations with trade unions.

Calls for the ITF Dockers’ Section, including all affiliated unions, to support any necessary lawful action to ensure that DP World London Gateway respects the principles of co-operative industrial relations and trade union rights.

Notes that this will require DPW London Gateway to allow full access for Unite the Union to its employees, and to demonstrate good faith in all elements of the union recognition process.

Norway union blockades port to protect dockers’ work

Dockers in the Port of Drammen, Norway have successfully prevented non-registered workers from unloading a ship via a harbour blockade.

The action by ITF and ETF affiliated union members in the port was put in place to stop the unloading of the Carta Maria, which was carrying cargofrom Estonia, by Polish labourers. The vessel is registered under the Barbados flag of convenience and owned by Norwegian shipping company Carta Shipping Kopervik.

Chair of the ETF Dockers Section within NTF (Norwegian Transport Workers) Terje Samuelson said: “Dockers in Drammen weren’t willing to accept that non-registered workers would be doing their jobs. Being a docker is about more than just turning up in the morning, it’s a profession and the people who do it should be respected as experts in their field.”

He continued: “Dockers won’t stand by and let their jobs be taken from under them, they are prepared to fight to protect their livelihoods. In this case no effort was made to change the shipping route despite knowing there is an agreement on unloading cargo at Drammen, that’s just not acceptable.”

The collective bargaining agreement for port workers in Drammen states that vessels in the harbour will use registered port workers as stipulated in International Labour Organisation Convention 137 on port work.

The local union has been seeking agreement on protection of loading and unloading work as dockers’ work through meetings with shipping companies but took the blockade action when these proved fruitless.

Despite threats of fines and imprisonment from the company hired to unload the vessel, after three hours the Port Authority sent in five men from the registered unionised dockers to unload the ship and the blockade was lifted.

ETF and IDC announce joint Euro ports policy overview

The European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF) and the International Dockworkers’ Council – European zone (IDC-E) have met in Brussels to discuss the latest developments in European Union ports policy, as well as the critical situations of Spain, Greece and Portugal.

Following their meetings, the two organisations released a joint overview of the situation, jointly authored by Terje Samuelsen, ETF dockers’ section chair, and Anthony Tetard, IDC coordinator for the European zone, available here.

ETF responses to Commission’s review of EU ports policy

The ETF has adopted its preliminary response to the consultation launched by the European Commission for reviewing EU ports policy.

The document states the views of the ETF Dockers’ Section on the way the consultation process is being carried out;  on the issue of competition and competitiveness of EU ports; on the community action as far as market access, financial framework for EU ports and sustainable development are concerned; on labour-related issues.

Appendix I to the paper responds to the impact assessment’s questionnaire on quality and efficiency of the EU port sector.

Due to the delay in the publication of the study on port labour in the EU commissioned by DG MOVE to Portius, it was not possible to include an evaluation of the study’s outcome in the ETF paper. Therefore, a second response will be issued after the presentation of the study’s final report.

ETF members attend European Dockworkers’ Conference

ETF Spanish affiliates FSC-CCOO and TCM-UGT along with IDC’s Coordinadora have organised a European Dockworkers’ Conference that took place in Barcelona on 11 December 2012.

ETF members from Belgium, the Netherlands, the UK, Germany, Norway, Denmark, Italy, Bulgaria, Poland and France have attended the conference, whose main aim was to demonstrate solidarity to the Spanish dockers in the framework of the infringement procedure opened by the European Commission against Spain on dockwork organisation and recruitment in Spanish ports.

A declaration was adopted by the unions attending the conference, confirming their solidarity to Spanish unions and stating the disagreement with the strategy that is being developed by the European Commission according to the latest declarations from Commissioner Kallas. The conference further resolved that ETF and IDC will coordinate in the near future a common strategy for an EU-wide industrial campaign to oppose current and future attempts to liberalise and deregulate dock labour in EU ports.

You can download the European Dockworkers' Conference Declaration in English, French and Spanish under related documents at the bottom of this page.

Port workers in Italy set for strike action over retroactive pay freeze

Port authority employees in Italy are taking strike action next week in a dispute over a government pay freeze that is being backdated.

The workers, represented by the Federazione Italiana Lavoratori Trasporti FILT-CGIL, Federazione Italiana Trasporti -CISL  and Unione Italiana dei Lavoratori dei Trasporti, have called for a strike of port authority employees on 5 December 2012. They are demanding that the government reverse its decision to freeze workers’ pay as part of austerity measures. The move not only contravenes the wage hike stipulated in the collective bargaining agreement but also forces workers to pay back the increases they received since January 2012.

The unions, all of whom are affiliated to the ETF and ITF, have condemned the decision. The port authority clerical workers, who enjoy civil service status in Italy, could also be joined by other workers, such as stevedores, following a call to action from UILTRASPORTI.

The collective bargaining agreement covers all of Italy’s port sector workers; the port authority association is one of several employers involved in the negotiations. The  government’s decision puts the pay of workers across the whole sector at risk, paving the way for other groups of employers to undermine the agreement.

Livia Spera, ETF political secretary for dockers and fisheries, said: “The ETF and its affiliated unions are monitoring the situation closely and stand ready to support to its Italian members. What is happening in Italy is part of a general trend that is reversing decisions taken by social partners involved in collective bargaining negotiations, threatening their role and autonomy.”

ETF joins dockers’ demonstration in Portugal

On 29 November 2012, hundreds of dockworkers have demonstrated in the capital of Portugal to protest against proposed changes to the labour laws of the country’s ports.

On 29 November 2012, hundreds of dockworkers have demonstrated in the capital of Portugal to protest against proposed changes to the labour laws of the country’s ports.

Together with delegations of ETF affiliates from Belgium (BTB and ACV Transcom), Finland (AKT) and Denmark (3F), ETF General Secretary Eduardo Chagas participated in the demonstration and expressed ETF’s solidarity by addressing the Portuguese dockers. In his statement, he confirmed ETF’s and ITF’s solidarity and denounced the fact that the Portuguese government is hiding behind the future proposals from the European Commission. “We need to be united in this battle against all present and future attacks against dockworkers, no matter if they come from the European Commission, national governments, employer’s organisations or powerful maritime lobbies” Eduardo Chagas stated.

The Portuguese parliament has been discussing the proposed reform of port labour law and expressed a general favourable vote to the text, which will now be examined by the specialised commission.

To get an impression of the atmosphere, you can watch this video or browse through the photo album.

Dockers’ demo in Portugal over port liberalisation plans

Dockers’ unionists in Portugal will be voicing their opposition to a new national port law at a demonstration in Lisbon this week.

The activists will be staging their protest outside the Portuguese parliament in Lisbon on 29 November, where a vote will be taking place on the law. They are furious that the government has  failed to consult unions over the proposed legislation, which was announced in August. The plans respond to pressure from the Troika tripartite committee (led by the European Commission with the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund) and could liberalise port labour, deregulate dockers’ work and lead to casualisation.

The unions are calling for international solidarity to highlight the issue; Eduardo Chagas, general secretary of the European Transport Workers’ Federation, delegations from Belgian unions ACV Transcom and Belgische Transportarbeidersbond, the Danish ETF affiliate 3F as well as the Finnish Transport Workers’ Union will also be at the protest.

Port unions in Portugal, which have formed a “common front” to deal with the proposals, have been holding strikes and other actions since August following the government’s refusal to enter into meaningful consultations over the text. They are concerned that the new law could redefine dockers’ work if casualisation goes ahead. The ITF- and ETF-affiliated Oficiaismar, part of the front, wants to discussions with the government to be established; it has reported that all the authorities have done so far is attempt to divide the union movement. 

Once the vote has taken place, the matter will be passed to a special committee; it will eventually go to the vote at the plenary.

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