Cross-Channel ferries set to be disrupted, after quayside workers voted unanimously to strike in dispute over dismissal, re-hire plan

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Cross-Channel ferries from Portsmouth are set to be disrupted, after a key group of workers voted unanimously to strike in a dispute over plans to dismiss them and re-hire them on worse contracts.

The 18 quay assistants are responsible for tying up and releasing the ferries at Portsmouth International Port will begin an overtime ban from next Tuesday (24 July) with dates for full strike action to be decided in the next few days.

The new contracts at the centre of the dispute would require the quayside staff to guarantee to service vessels beyond their contractual finishing time of midnight until 5.45am the following day.

Unite convenor at Portsmouth City Council, Richard White, said: “The 100 per cent vote in favour of industrial action is a wake-up call for the council to get around the table to sort out this dispute in a meaningful way.

“The quay assistants have the ability to cause disruption to cross-channel ferries at the peak of the holiday season and to other shipping by this industrial action.”

Unite regional officer, Ian Woodland said: “We want Portsmouth to be a successful port, but not at the expense of our members.

“PCC needs to recognise the unique situation at the port and help us find a solution that suits both the port and our members.”

Unite says it has expressed a range of concerns with the new contracts, including serious health and safety issues involved in working a shift of over 13 hours and also the paltry pay for such a commitment.

The union is also concerned that new staff have been employed on inferior contracts as existing port workers have left.

These new contracts have made it compulsory for them to stay on after contractual hours – until the last vessel had been serviced – frequently with no extra pay.

Currently, just under half the staff are contractually obliged to service late sailings and the rest can leave at midnight, according to Unite.

Officials say this has left the new staff increasingly frustrated that they have been employed to undermine the terms and conditions of existing staff, and also that they are servicing vessels under the new overtime rates, but, in a majority of cases, are not being paid for doing so.


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