Dutch dockworkers refuse to load freight on P&O’s Pride of Rotterdam in solidarity with laid off UK ferry workers

Dockworkers in the Netherlands refused to load freight onto the Pride of Rotterdam ferry scheduled for Hull in the UK on Friday, in solidarity with the 800 sailors made redundant by P&O on March 17. The ship was finally able to leave the Europoort in Rotterdam.

A to seeo showing a row of cheering dockworkers blocking the ship’s entrance was tweeted by FNV dockers’ section national secretary Niek Stam and was widely circulated. Uploaded at 6:42 p.m. on March 25, it has been viewed more than 800,000 times.

P&O Ferries Europoort Netherland dockworkers refuse to load goods onto the Pride of Rotterdam ferry in support of 800 laid-off British workers. (Niek Stam/Twitter)

The action by Dutch dockers also sparked action in Hull on Saturday when dozens of P&O worker supporters marched on the A64 and slowed traffic entering King George Dock from Hedon Road. The traffic was arriving at Hull with a view to boarding the Pride of Rotterdam, subject to delay by the action of the Dutch dockers.

The international solidarity of dockworkers in the Port of Rotterdam, Europe’s largest seaport and the world’s largest seaport outside East Asia, demonstrates the enormous collective strength of the working class that could be mobilized on the basis of a struggle for socialist internationalism.

Dutch workers’ solidarity was therefore anathema to British trade unions and Labor MPs, whose nationalist campaign opposes the mobilization of workers in Britain and across borders in the most global industries and focuses instead on the intervention of the Conservative government to “save Britain”. Ferries” and the maritime industry. Ten days after the dismissals, no industrial action has even been threatened and even less a strike vote organized by the unions of the railways, sea and transport (RMT) and Nautilus, whose members have been fired on the spot and expelled from ships by wearing balaclavas, handcuffs wearing thugs.

The Trades Union Congress Twitter page couldn’t bring itself to retweet the video of the Dutch workers’ action until 9.30am on Saturday morning, almost 5pm later. When he finally did, his tweet was liked over 13,000 times and shared over 2,600 times. Labor MP for Hull Karl Turner cynically retweeted the video with the words ‘Join a union today’.

Responses to the TUC were not so jaded. One comment read: “All credit goes to Rotterdam dockers for supporting the @RMTunion against @POferries. But if they can fight, why can’t you? “. Another said: ‘TUC confuses warm words with solidarity. Another wrote: “They do more than TUC…a bit embarrassing if you ask me! Get off your knees and do more!! Solidarity with the dismissed workers of P&O and international solidarity with the comrades in Europe! »

The unions’ refusal to lift a finger comes under conditions in which even Conservative government inspectors had to stop P&O’s European Causeway vessel in Larne, Northern Ireland last week for being ‘unfit to sail’. Run by a strike-breaking workforce on wages as low as £5.15 an hour, inspectors found ‘failures in crew familiarization, ship documentation and crew training ‘crew’ – all matters which could compromise the safety of crew and passengers and other vessels.

On Saturday, hundreds of protesters marched and rallied against the redundancies at the ports of Dover, Hull and Liverpool.

Demonstrators in Dover march in protest against job losses (WSWS Media)

In Dover, protesters marched from the RMT headquarters to the docks, under a heavy police presence. Underscoring the stalemate from the union perspective, two P&O ships were ready to leave the quays occupied by scabs.

While an RMT speaker acknowledged Rotterdam’s action, it was to stress that P&O CEO Peter Hebblethwaite should step down because he had managed to ‘destroy the reputation of this 185-year-old company in one day’ . If Hebblethwaite and its board step down, a GMB union representative said, “then and only then can we build the fantastic and iconic brand that existed before.”

Members of the Socialist Equality Party distributed: “The stalemate of the ‘Save Britain’s Ferries’ campaign: Build grassroots committees! calling for the rejection of nationalism and an international strategy. Journalists spoke to those protesting.

Chloe and Layla (WSWS Media)

Chloe said: “I am here to support my sister who has lost her job as a shore worker for P&O. The protests must not stop until they get justice. It’s disgusting what the company has done. All workers must stick together.

Layla said: “My stepfather was an engineer at P&O for 35 years, these companies should not be allowed to do this to workers. If P&O can do it and get away with it, other companies will and that’s why we all need to stick together and let them know we won’t tolerate it.

Paul (WSWS Media)

Paul, a recently retired seaman who worked for P&O said: ‘What the company has done is heinous and should not have happened. The blame lies with the Conservatives for changing the employment law. Bad words don’t mean anything, it’s action we need.

“I used to lead a crew of over 20, then it went down to 16, then nine and finally six crews. We were sailing on one ship, six days and six nights, 24 hours a day, your workload increased dramatically and for me it was dangerous.I left last year because my health was starting to deteriorate.

Paul emphasized the need for a highly skilled workforce. “At the moment there are no notes, no officers. What they have done is employ scabs on inferior terms and that is dangerous. I have faced many situations like people overboard and fires on ships. You need a trained team to deal with them. These people will not be trained. It takes at least six months to be inducted on a ship and this are just the basics. You never stop learning, it’s a continuous process.

Paul was working on ferries when the Townsend Thoresen Herald of Free Enterprise sank shortly after leaving the Belgian port of Zeebrugge on March 6, 1987, resulting in the loss of 193 crew and passengers. “It was awful and the lessons weren’t really learned.”

The 800 layoffs were the latest in a long string of job cuts. “Not so long ago [June 2020] 1,200 people have lost their jobs and now 800 more have been made redundant. You can’t handle heavy business management. There are 1,400 people left in the office. They accompanied different CEOs with brilliant ideas, wasting millions. They brought a ship back from a refit. It cost them £25m and now it’s tied up in Dunkirk rusting away. They talk about saving millions. But they cost the company millions.

Paul said the impact of job losses in Dover is catastrophic. “That’s 600 people not spending in the city and in this current climate where everything goes up you can’t get a living wage. Then this company came in to try and pay people under £5 an hour .

“A few years ago P&O transferred the fleet to Cyprus and changed all the names. They said it wouldn’t affect anyone’s terms and conditions. It just shows you. The plan was a process over a five-year period to reduce crews.

Johna National Health Service employee said: ‘This is an attack on the working class and just profiteers who want to make more money and don’t care about the workforce around them.

“We should be run democratically by workers, there shouldn’t be fat cats keeping all the money. You have to show companies that they can’t treat people that way.

“The working class is suffering even more from this cost of living crisis. Everything is going up, but people’s salaries are going down. The government does nothing to support workers, it simply supports shareholders and business people. We need to change the way this country is run. We need socialism, democratically led by the workers, for the workers.

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