Interview: Rotterdam Dockworker Crisis Could Be Cleared by End of March 2016

A solution to the dockworker crisis in Rotterdam could be found by the end of March, according to FNV Havens’ Secretary, Niek Stam, as unions and employers return to the negotiating table.

Following a series of talks between the Port of Rotterdam and the trade unions, which fell through as the port’s dockworkers refused the proposed conditions by the employers since they failed to meet their workers’ demands, the workers resorted to 24-hour industrial action on January 7.

FNV Havens said that the fear of potential job cuts, which could be expected as the two fully automatized container terminals at Maasvlakte become operational, was the reason behind the strike, and added that the union wants job guarantees until July 2020.

Following the strike, which was backed up by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF), the port authority and the trade unions agreed to return to the negotiating table with both the unions and the employers to see if they could reach an agreement and avoid further strikes.

After the negotiations held on January 14, the parties agreed to hold further exploratory meetings on January 18 and 19, to work on a better offer from the employers which, according to Stam, should guarantee jobs for all the workers, even if the cargo throughput at the port decreases, as it might happen due to the economic slowdown in China.

In an interview with World Maritime News, FNV Havens’ Secretary Niek Stam, said that he believes that the negotiations could be finalized by the end of March this year. This prolonged date is, as he noted, due to the recent announcement related to a problem faced by a small labor pool of Rotterdam Port Services saying that “they are heading to bankruptcy, which means that about 121 workers” could lose their jobs. Stam added that the union is exploring possibilities with their counterparts to bring these 121 workers to other companies at least until July 2020.

Image Courtesy: ITF
Image Courtesy: ITF

Stam said that the final deal should contain a solution for everybody, including Rotterdam Port Services workers, before the union asks for the membership approval of the deal.

When asked about the possibility of further industrial action at the port, Stam said that as long as the union is engaged in the negotiating process in good faith there is no need for strikes.

He added that the union’s next step would be to see if a draft solution could be finalized, after which the union would have to look for a solution for the Rotterdam Port Services workers.

As the FNV Havens said, up to 800 jobs, out of the existing 3,600, could be cut by 2017 due to terminal automation.

Talks on dockworkers’ demands with container operators Europe Container Terminals (ECT), APM Terminals and Rotterdam World Gateway (RWG) began in April 2015.

World Maritime News Staff