Yarmouth port workers jobs loss anger

PORT workers and Great Yarmouth's MP have criticised the axing of skilled port workers months before the commercial launch of Great Yarmouth's �50m outer harbour.

PORT workers and Great Yarmouth's MP have criticised the axing of skilled port workers months before the commercial launch of Great Yarmouth's �50m outer harbour.

The announcement that a third of jobs at EastPort Cargo Handling - formerly Great Yarmouth Stevedoring Company and a subsidiary of EastPort UK - have been shed, has cast a shadow over what the outer harbour can deliver for the town.

Today, union officials and representatives from Eastport UK will meet to discuss working arrangements for the remaining dock workers, which will also involve the services of ACAS, the independent conciliation body.

Cutting the 16-strong workforce to just 11 was tagged “a tragedy” by union official Victor Brazkiewicz at a time when the expectation was that more jobs were being created.


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The Mercury understands the longest serving dock worker out of the five had worked at the company for four years.

Mr Brazkiewicz, the Unite regional industrial organiser, said many members had been campaigning for a new outer harbour for years, if not decades.

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He said: “The company's attitude is one of paying lip service to the union and its members during this tragic redundancy development.

“The union has also been heavily committed in promoting the outer harbour, and good industrial relations. Our efforts and those of other organisations, local government, East of England Development Agency and MPs resulted in millions of pounds of taxpayers' money being put towards this development.

“It is now a tragedy that some of our members face unemployment and little prospect of other work, with redundancy pay at an inadequate basic level.”

Expressing his disappointment over the job losses MP Tony Wright said he was aware that ports around the country were facing difficult times in the recession and that Yarmouth was not immune to that.

He said: “It's certainly difficult times but perhaps they could have looked long term at this. Millions are being spent on the outer harbour and I'm sure the port will want as much business as it can get, but if you want that business then you need the workers to deal with it.”

Mr Wright said stevedoring - labourers who load and unload vessels in a port - was a skilled job and Yarmouth needed experienced workers to make the outer harbour a success.

John Fuller, director at Yarmouth fertiliser company J&H Bunn which uses the services of local dock workers, said: “Obviously there are always regrets when a company has to tighten its belt but Eastport is still very much in business and I'm sure they will be able to continue to support us.”

The Mercury telephoned EastPort UK for a comment from chief executive Eddie Freeman at Wednesday midday but by the time of going to press yesterday, we had not had a reply.

Some of the biggest users of Yarmouth port have expressed concern over the redundancies.

Great Yarmouth Port Users' Association represents about 30 businesses in and around the harbour.

Chairman Mike Gouldby said: "It is regrettable this situation has developed at a time when all of our members, as well as the community, were looking forward to growth in business and employment.

"While we acknowledge that ports in general are experiencing a significant downturn in business, it must be remembered that a significant part of the revenue from the existing 'river port' continues to be generated from the energy sector which, although a little subdued, remains quite buoyant.

“The public funding package obtained for the outer harbour was obtained primarily to enhance the existing facility in order to accommodate the larger offshore vessels associated with construction, decommissioning and recommissioning, wind energy and a roll-on roll-off ferry service.

"As far as our group is aware, the outer harbour facility has been procured to enhance the total offer which 'our port' can offer existing and new customers and definitely not to replace the existing river port. Therefore it is disappointing to learn of redundancies instead of job increases."

He added: “Our group has recently met with EastPort, Tony Wright MP and the Conservative prospective parliamentary candidate, Brandon Lewis, to offer the combined knowledge and experience of our membership so that the admirable efforts of the funding partners can

be maximised for the benefit of

local business and increased employment. We look forward to establishing a more meaningful dialogue.”

The Mercury telephoned EastPort UK for a comment from chief executive Eddie Freeman on Wednesday at midday but by the time of going to press yesterday, we had not had a reply.

The first vessel to enter the outer harbour is likely to be the biggest ever to visit the port. The 234m Zhen Hua 6 is scheduled to complete its marathon journey from China via Hong Kong, around South Africa's Cape of Good Hope, on May 1, when it docks in the harbour to unload two giant cranes for the container terminal.

The vessel, the most recent of six designed specially to carry container cranes, is currently in the Canaries but should be visible, mooring off the coast, from about April 26.

A team will be flying in from China to install the cranes, together worth about �7m, in a commissioning process likely to take two months.

The harbour is expected to launch its commercial trade in July when larger vessels servicing the offshore industry begin to use it.

Work on the harbour has been protracted by the decision, announced last August, to build an extra 350m of quay to handle general cargoes, and contractors Edmund Nuttall are now expected to be still on site until December.

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