European Commission sends notice on organisation of port labour in Belgium

2 Apr 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 soc