Angry scenes at dock workers protest
THERE were angry scenes in Great Yarmouth last week as dock workers staged a protest over the axing of 11 jobs. More than 150 people waving placards and flags gathered outside the South Quay headquarters of EastPort UK.
THERE were angry scenes in Great Yarmouth last week as dock workers staged a protest over the axing of 11 jobs.
More than 150 people waving placards and flags gathered outside the South Quay headquarters of EastPort UK.
Port workers from Felixstowe, Thamesport, Dover, the Humber, Southampton, Grimsby and Hull along with leading officials from union Unite stood alongside Yarmouth dockers over job losses branded as “criminal”.
It comes after 11 workers - some with more than 20 years' service - were made redundant from EastPort Cargo Handling.
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The jobs cuts and subsequent offer of casual work has sent shockwaves through the port of Yarmouth with the town's new �50m outer harbour just months away from launching its commercial operations.
The project, which received about �20m from the public purse, had been tipped to create hundreds of jobs.
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When the 11 dockers facing unemployment joined the demonstration they were met with infectious applause and cheers from their families and former dock workers. Passing cars and lorries sounded their horns in support.
Docker Steven Drew said he was overwhelmed by the turnout and while standing on a bench towering above his colleagues, made an impassioned plea to his employers to re-think the job cuts.
“Casualisation is the cancer of the docker and we want none of it,” he said.
Before stepping down to rapturous applause, Mr Drew held a copy of a casual contract, which EastPort has offered the 11 redundant workers, and ripped it to pieces.
Brendan Gold, the union's national secretary, said the solidarity between port workers from across the country showed they would stand against casualisation of dock workers. In a passionate speech he said: “Casualisation is a disgrace. There is public money in that new outer harbour development, now they are kicking us out.”
The demonstration follows months of failed negotiations over new working contracts, requiring workers to be on call 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week.
Victor Brazkiewicz, Unite regional industrial organiser, branded the job cuts and casualisation of dock workers as “criminal”.
He said: “We have done our utmost to retain permanent workers in this port to no avail so far, but we are not going to give up. We all hoped the new outer harbour, which for many decades people, including our own dock workers, campaigned for, would bring permanent jobs. But what you see happening is the loss of jobs - the total reverse of what we expected. It is criminal what has happened.”
Mr Brazkiewicz also announced that Euro MP Richard Howitt had given his support to the demonstration and said he would be writing to EastPort chief executive Eddie Freeman about the situation.
Port worker Andy Green had taken the day off work to travel to Yarmouth and take part in the demonstration.
He said casualisation of the port workforce could raise health and safety issues.
Former port worker Peter Gardner, who son Richard is one of the 11 dockers facing unemployment, said: “I think this is disgraceful. The town has the most modern outer harbour yet they are getting rid of dockers, some of who have been in the port for over 20 years and are experienced in something which is a dangerous job.”
Frank Drew, a docker for 27 years and father of Steven Drew, warned Yarmouth's port could “rap up” if urgent action was not taken to abolish casual working.
He said: “I hope they put an embargo on this port and I hope we are strong enough to fight off this casualisation. This port has gone to rack and ruin.”
Labour party chairman Michael Jeal urged both sides to go back to the table to sort the problems out. “Nobody wants casualisation. It should not be reintroduced in modern society.”
No one from EastPort was available for comment.