Antwerp port strike ends following agreement over dockers’ work

8 Jul 2013

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.”