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Mothball London Gateway, says Unite union

[ February 13, 2013   //   ]

Unite is accusing Dubai-based DP World of taking an anti-union stance at its new London Gateway deep-sea container port in the Thames estuary – and is calling for it to be mothballed until current over-capacity is reduced.

Jane Jeffery, regional officer at Unite, 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.

“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.

Jeffery added: “There is already over capacity in the UK’s container ports and we believe that this port should not be opened with the current over capacity nationally.”

The union warns that DP World’s refusal to recognise the union will mean “a race to the bottom” in employment conditions that could threaten the future viability of Felixstowe, Southampton and Thamesport – all ports where Unite is currently recognised.

Unite said that union recognition would improve health and safety issues in an industry that it said remained one of the most dangerous to work in. “This is doubly worrying given that the government is currently trying to whittle down the health & safety regulations,” said Unite’s spokeswoman.

London Gateway is due to open later this year and is already recruiting for the 2,500-strong workforce, most of them dockers, said Unite.

However, Unite argues that London Gateway will not 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.”

In response, a London Gateway spokesman said: “Unite representatives have been to visit DP World London Gateway twice within the last year and have asked if we would give ‘site recognition’ to Unite. On both occasions, we have responded that membership of any union (including Unite) would be a free choice matter for London Gateway employees to decide upon and if membership of one or more unions reached the level where recognition was applicable then we would be very happy to do so.

“In terms of Health and Safety, DP World puts safety as its number one priority in every operational terminal all over the world, regardless of union membership. Anyone who has had any dealings with DP World knows this is our priority in everything we do. ‘Safety begins with teamwork’ is our culture. London Gateway (and many other DP World managed terminals) is OHSAS 18001 accredited and we are very proud of our occupational and health and safety staff as well as our working practices. Since construction started, we have provided Health and Safety inductions to over 9,000 staff on site and we have a full time Health and Safety team working alongside all our contractors.

“We are not in any way against union membership and we strongly believe in freedom of choice for all staff. We are very happy to discuss this matter with any party.  We are disappointed that this unique investment into UK transport infrastructure at zero cost to the taxpayer, providing thousands of new jobs, is not welcomed by Unite.”

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