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Dockers protest to go on

PUBLISHED: 16:15 23 July 2009 | UPDATED: 14:28 03 July 2010

UNDER-pressure dockers have pledged to take their fight to keep their jobs to the steps of EastPort every week.

The axed workers will protest outside the company's South Quay headquarters every Thursday in a last-ditch attempt to save their jobs.

UNDER-pressure dockers have pledged to take their fight to keep their jobs to the steps of EastPort every week.

The axed workers will protest outside the company's South Quay headquarters every Thursday in a last-ditch attempt to save their jobs.

It follows the shedding of 11 jobs at EastPort Cargo Handling, a move which has angered workers in the face of an expanding port with the outer harbour set to be commercially operational later this year.

Meanwhile, public support for the dockers is growing daily with a raft of petitions gaining signatures.

Steven Drew, a docker of more than 20 years, this week pledged to fight until the “bitter end” and called on townspeople to support the protests. He said: “The protests will be continuous for the next two months and anyone is more than welcome to come along.

“Morale is still very low in the port and the workers and I are basically counting down the days.”

Mr Drew said petitions around town and on social networking site Facebook were gaining strong support and this week a petition opposing casualisation was launched on the government website.

Port bosses at EastPort intend to replace the workforce with casual labour and a further five jobs were axed from cargo handling company in June.

Last week Yarmouth MP Tony Wright met with EastPort chief executive Eddie Freeman and said they had an “open and frank discussion” about the current situation in the port.

Mr Wright has also met with transport minister Paul Clark to discuss the port labour issues in Yarmouth and said he hoped port bosses would have a re-think. He said: “There is the opinion that you need a fully operational workforce to operate the port. I have always been opposed to casualisation and when the dock workers labour scheme was abolished, pledges were given by the previous government that it would not lead to casualisation, but quite clearly 20 years on there is a movement towards that.”

Mr Wright said he accepted the recession was having an impact on the shipping industry but said he thought the company could have kept some of the workforce until business picked up.

“I still believe this is the wrong thing to do. We need to maintain the workforce. I want to see the port full of ships and EastPort having to take more people on.

“We have got to try and persuade EastPort to have another look. We are on the same side, I spent years battling for the public money used in this project and we need to work together to make it a success.”

EastPort consider the matter to be confidential and refused to comment.

Protests will be held every Thursday outside the South Quay offices of EastPort between midday and 1pm.

To sign the petition visit http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/Dockers.

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