ETF: 2015 Dark Year for Workers’ Safety in European Ports

2015 has been a particularly dark year for safety in docks at European ports, according to the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF).

“In 2015 European Dockworkers, their families and their unions have mourned colleagues, relatives and comrades who lost their life while working in the ports of Antwerp, Bilbao, Bremerhaven, Helsinki, Oxelösund, Sines, Valencia, just to mention those accidents that have been publicly reported,” the Federation said.

As explained by ETF Dockers’ Section Chair Terje Samuelsen, although these accidents have occurred in different circumstances and according to different dynamics, dockworkers are experiencing growing pressure as they are demanded to be more and more productive.

“Time pressure plays a significant role in safety because there is a tendency to overlook procedures that would allow preventing a certain number of accidents”, said Samuelsen.

“Investigations are still ongoing on most of these accidents and we will have to wait for the final results to make an assessment of the causes and take measures to avoid that similar accidents occur again. However, we believe there is a safety emergency that must be tackled. Beside expressing our deepest condolences to the families we are expected to act, together with employers, port authorities and all involved actors”, he concluded.

The ever changing maritime and port industries have serious implications for port workers. This is in particular important seeing the changes in vessels’ size.

“In a context where vessels’ size is growing, cargo volume is not increasing and ships are not full, it is legitimate and urgent for the industry to dialogue and act”, Torben Seebold, ETF Dockers’ Section Vice-Chair, said.

“Let’s take the case of the North Range ports, and in particular of Rotterdam: automation is introduced without a preliminary meaningful dialogue with the workers, port capacity has been increased and volumes are not growing. In this framework it is not easy for operators to recoup their investments, and they are not entitled to state aid as other players in the maritime sector. Port employers are pushed to cut their costs and in the end workers pay the highest contribution, in terms of job security and working conditions, as pressure on them is increasing.

“We have already started a dialogue with FEPORT on this. However, discussions have to be taken also at the level of maritime clusters and have to involve all concerned parties, including local institutions”.

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