A new prestige deep-sea container port in the Thames estuary - the London Gateway - has raised concerns about driving down workers’ wages and health and safety issues.
Unite, the largest union in the country, believes that the refusal by the port’s owners - Dubai-based DP World - to recognise the union will mean a race to the bottom in terms of employment conditions which could threaten the future viability of the container ports at Felixstowe and Southampton, as well as at Thamesport.
Unite said that union recognition always reinforces health and safety issues - and docks remain one of the most dangerous industries to work in.
The London Gateway is due to open later this year and is already recruiting for the 2,500-strong workforce, the majority of which would be dockers.
Unite regional officer Jane Jeffery said: “We have held a number of meetings with Gateway’s management and they are clear that they will not be recognising a trade union prior to the port opening. We call on them to rethink this stance.
“There is already overcapacity in the UK’s container ports and we believe that this port should not be opened with the current overcapacity nationally.
“We are presently seeing other port owners and management engaging in a race to the bottom to compete against London Gateway which is not yet open. This is having a huge impact on terms and conditions of our members.
“We are concerned that should DP World embark on this course it could affect the future financial viability of the deep-sea container ports at Southampton and Felixstowe/Harwich where Unite is recognised.
“The London Gateway is not looking to create new work and there is a very real possibility that the jobs it creates will be lost elsewhere, with the new jobs on inferior terms and conditions.
“Union recognition has proved to be vital in promoting health & safety issues in workplaces across the UK – the fact DP World does not want to recognise Unite does not auger well for health and safety in what remains one of the UK’s most dangerous industries.
“This is doubly worrying given that the government is currently trying to whittle down the health & safety regulations.”
For further information please contact Jane Jeffery on 07739 822610 and/or Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 07768 693940
- Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with 1.5 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.