European dock and transport union leaders voiced concerns that a plan to reform European ports will threaten jobs and working conditions in pilotage, towage and mooring.
The European Commission, the EU’s executive, unveiled a reform package this week aimed at boosting efficiency on the waterfront so that cargo is more evenly distributed throughput ports in the 27-member bloc.
At present three ports — Rotterdam, Antwerp and Hamburg — handle a fifth of Europe’s seaborne trade, leading to congestion and extra costs for shippers.
The reforms do not cover cargo handling, a controversial issue in earlier EU directives that were twice voted down by the European Parliament, most recently in 2006, following strikes and mass demonstrations by dockworkers.
The European Transport Workers Federation (ETF), which led the opposition to the previous reforms, today said it was “satisfied “that cargo handling is excluded from the proposed market access rules.
But it “is extremely concerned about the consequences that the proposals could have on [its] members ... in technical-nautical services, notably in pilotage, towage and mooring.”
“Even if dock labour is not included in the new regulation it is clear that liberalization of port labour is still on the Commission’s agenda,” said Terje Samuelsen, the head of the ETF’s dockers section.
“The strategy seems to have changed as we have passed from comprehensive one-size-fits-all proposals to targeted interventions at the national level.”
The Commission has made clear its intention to return to the issue of port labour in 2016, according to Samuelsen.
“European dockers remain vigilant and are ready to fight back any attempt to deregulate their professions,” Samuelsen said.
The Commission proposal has also been criticized by the Port of Rotterdam.