Belgium unions have staged some action at the Port of Antwerp

Dispute escalates in Belgium as attack on EU dockers continues

The Europe-wide fight to protect dockers' work is continuing as a dispute in the port of Antwerp, Belgium escalates.

The ETF and ITF are supporting affiliated unions throughout the region as they deal with attacks via European Union and national legislation, and direct through employers.

The Common Trade Union Front for the Port of Antwerp (GVHA) which represents ABVV-BTB, ACV Transcom and ACLVB, is involved in a conflict with employer LOGISPORT over attempts to undermine the status of port workers which is protected by the Belgian Law on Port Labour.

More than 250 dockers were involved in action on 12 March, including blockades at the gate of Katoennatie in quay 1227. The GVHA has outlined its intention to take further action if management fails to meet union representatives around the negotiating table.

A statement from the GVHA said: "We have never been known for going ahead with reckless actions; we have always tried to find a solution by means of industrial consultation. However, the statements and letters originating from Mr HUTS (of LOGISPORT) in the course of recent months leave us with no other choice."

Following industrial action by GVHA members in June 2013 regarding the non-compliance to the port labour legislation by LOGISPORT, an agreement was made to find a solution through social dialogue. To date, despite mediation by a Joint Subcommittee, attempts by GVHA to enter into open negotiation with management have failed.

The statement concluded: ”We will not allow the status of dock labour to be undermined by unreliable individuals. Therefore we give today a clear warning to Mr HUTS and LOGISPORT: Start the social dialogue! Show some respect for our Law on Dock Labour!”

In the meantime there is concern that a ruling later in March could find the Belgium national port law in breach of EU laws governing port work. Allegedly it comes following complaints from some employers in the port of Antwerp which have been sympathetically received by the European Commission.

ETF dockers’ section secretary Livia Spera said: “The ETF and ITF are united in criticising the attitude of the Euopean Commission which, over the last years has been prompting the presentation of complaints on the organisation of port labour. This is not coherent with the declared intention to support social dialogue, as infringement procedures and court cases only contribute to social unrest and the triggering of disputes.”

(Find out more about the ongoing attack on dockers across Europe) [Need to link to http://www.itfglobal.org/etf/etf-3642.cfm]

Watch this film on the dockers' fightback >>

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