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Angry scenes at dockers protest

PUBLISHED: 20:21 09 July 2009 | UPDATED: 14:22 03 July 2010

Dock workers and their families are joined by union officials in a demonstration against job cuts in Yarmouth.

Dock workers and their families are joined by union officials in a demonstration against job cuts in Yarmouth.

A MAJOR protest was staged in Great Yarmouth today by dock workers over the axing of 11 jobs.

Placard and flag waving protesters demonstrated outside the offices of EastPort UK on South Quay.

United: Port workers from across the country join their colleagues in Yarmouth for the protest.

A MAJOR protest was staged in Great Yarmouth today by dock workers over the axing of 11 jobs.

Placard and flag waving protesters demonstrated outside the offices of EastPort UK on South Quay.

Port workers from Felixstowe, Thamesport, Dover, the Humber, Southampton, Grimsby and Hull along with leading officials from the union Unite stood alongside Yarmouth dockers over job loses branded as “criminal”.

It comes after 11 workers were made redundant from EastPort Cargo Handling.

Backing the protest: A supporter shows her commitment to the demonstration.

The 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 form the public purse, had been tipped to create hundreds of jobs.

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 a rapturous applause Mr Drew held a copy of a casual contract, which EastPort has offered the 11 redundant workers, and ripped it.

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 to the crowd 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.”

He added: “The remarkable show of support today is an indication that we will not give up.”

No one from EastPort was available for comment.

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