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Lives at risk, dockers warn

PUBLISHED: 21:02 17 September 2009 | UPDATED: 15:03 03 July 2010

Dockers gather at Yarmouth Town Hall to vent their anger at the job losses

Dockers gather at Yarmouth Town Hall to vent their anger at the job losses

PORT bosses could be putting lives at risk by axing dock workers in Great Yarmouth, union officials have warned at a heated public meeting tonight.

Sixty people, including dockers from Felixstowe, Harwich and Tilbury, packed into Yarmouth Town Hall to vent their anger at Eastport UK's decision to cut the final six workers, some with up to 20 years experience.

Geordie Landles addresses the packed public meeting at the Town Hall.

PORT bosses could be putting lives at risk by axing dock workers in Great Yarmouth, union officials have warned at a heated public meeting tonight.

Sixty people, including dockers from Felixstowe, Harwich and Tilbury, packed into Yarmouth Town Hall to vent their anger at Eastport UK's decision to cut the final six workers, some with up to 20 years experience.

Many of the workers made impassioned speeches against the plans, warning the port authority of the dangers involved with employing casual labour in place of the permanent staff, especially if they were not trained properly to deal with the dangerous port machinery.

Brendan Gold, national secretary of dockers' union Unite, said he could not understand how £50m had been spent on the new outer harbour yet jobs were being axed. He feared Eastport UK wanted to employ casual labour on “zero hours contracts” who would be sent a text by mobile phone asking if they wanted to work.

He said: “We are seeing casualisation creeping in on the Mersey and other areas at the behest of employers. These are conditions for people to make changes and redundancies and offer zero hours contracts.

“In a few years time things will change and they will be wanting workers, but they will get people through agencies with no skills or training and no health and safety awareness. There will be an accident.”

Geordie Landles, a high ranking Unite representative from Felixstowe, threatened to embarrass Eastport UK by phoning ports on the continent to tell them about the situation in Yarmouth and urge them not to send their ships through the port.

He said dockers needed to have at least two years' experience to become skilled at the job which was not possible with casual employees.

Yarmouth MP Tony Wright and Labour borough councillor Mick Castle pledged their full support for the dockers at the meeting, along with port chaplain Peter Paine and Unite industrial organiser Victor Brazkiewicz.

Eastport UK, the leaders of Yarmouth Borough and Norfolk County Councils and the East of England Development Agency all declined invitations to attend.

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