Rotterdam Dockworkers’ Talks with Employers Fall Through, Strike Imminent

After the talks between Rotterdam Dockworkers’ unions FNV Havens and CNV Vakmensen with the port authority and the employers fell through, the unions are ready to call for a mobilisation of their members, European Transport Workers’ Federation said.

On Friday, 11 December the employers and port authority left the negotiating table where discussions were being held with the unions on the financial contribution the port of Rotterdam is expected to pay to compensate the social consequences of automation and overcapacity in the container sector.

“Those who decided to increase capacity and to build automated terminals should cover the social costs of their choices,” said Niek Stam, leader of FNV Havens and member of the ETF Dockers’ Section Steering Committee.

“For many years we have warned about the dangers of expansion and automation plans but the port authority always refused to engage in a meaningful dialogue. We expect that up to 800 people will lose their job. This is not fair nor sustainable and workers are not ready to pay the price for inadequate business choices,” he added.

Rotterdam Dockworkers' Talks with Employers Fall Through

The Port of Rotterdam Authority said that the container terminal companies located on the Maasvlakte and the lashing companies have offered the unions guaranteed employment for the next 4.5 years.

“In addition, they have developed a set of measures designed to prevent redundancies in the industry over the next few years,” the port authority added, however, during the negotiations, employees commenced a strike, which caused the employers and the Port Authority to terminate the negotiations.

“They have indicated that they do not wish to continue the negotiations while there is a threat of further industrial actions. The companies and the Port Authority have expressed their regret at the employees’ actions,” the port authority went on to say.

According to the port, “reliability and peace and quiet” are crucial to the port’s international clients, adding that the employers and the port authority are willing to give their employees a long-term employment guarantee.

The proposal by the port authority and the employers includes the following:

  • Guaranteed employment at the individual companies ECT, APMT, RWG, Matrans, ILS and Unilash until 1 July, 2020. This guarantee applies to employees who were on a permanent employment contract on 1 January, 2015.
  • A guarantee that current employees will be employed at the yet-to-be-completed Container Exchange Route, i.e. the private road between the terminals on Maasvlakte 1 and 2.
  • Facilitating mutual ‘borrowing’ and ‘lending’ of employees by the various companies.
  • A cautious staff policy designed to prevent employees on a permanent contract from being supplanted by casual workers. Vacancies are mainly to be filled by dockers on a permanent contract.
  • Expansion of the so-called ‘Senior Port FIT arrangements’ by four years. Effective from 1 July 2016, employees born in 1952, 1953, 1954 or 1955 will be eligible for the arrangements, under which they will be entitled to work 0.6 FTE while retaining 95% of their wages and 100% of their employer superannuation contributions.
  • The port authority will contribute towards the cost of these measures designed to maintain industrial peace in the Port of Rotterdam.

On Friday, 18 December the union FNV Havens will organise meetings with their members to present them with the offers made by the employers. If these are turned down, the unions will send an ultimatum to their counterparts.

In case an agreement is not reached after the ultimatum, ETF said that the unions will call for strikes as of the 1st of January 2016.

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