Astonishment greets vote on Ports Services Directive in European Parliament

22 November 2005

Astonishment greets vote on Ports Services Directive in European Parliament

A complete rejection of the Ports Services Directive, as proposed by the SP, failed narrowly to garner sufficient support in today's vote. At the same time, however, compromises brought forward by Christian Democrats (EPP) and Liberals (ELDR) were also thrown out when both political groups decided in the end to vote against their own proposals. This astonishing spectacle unfolded today when the European Parliament's Transport Committee voted on the controversial measure to liberalise Europe's ports.

The vote ended in chaos because the Christian Democrats and Liberals dropped their own compromises – which included the biggest stumbling-block of all, so-called 'self-handling' – like so many hot potatoes. ('Self-handling' is particularly controversial, because it would allow on-board personnel to perform harbour-side tasks for which they are untrained and unqualified, which unions argue would be dangerous, as well as costing properly qualified workers their jobs.) This increased the chance that the proposal as a whole will be thrown out when the entire Parliament votes on it at its coming plenary meeting in Strasbourg, although this will also depend on the mobilisation of dockworkers themselves in the potentially affected ports.

Erik MeijerTrade unions representing these workers were justified in feeling humiliated by what happened in the Transport Committee, as SP Euro-MP Erik Meijer pointed out. “Confidence in the European Parliament has been seriously damaged by these events,” Mr Meijer concluded. “The Christian Democrats and Liberals have made a complete mess of things. By voting against their own proposals they've put us back to square one, so that we're left with the proposal originally brought forward by European Commissioner Loyola De Palacio in 2004. That this directive, which has already been rejected once, should come back on to the agenda in its entirety will lead to a furious reaction in the ports. Even these compromises had failed to win over the unions. They wanted to see the whole directive thrown out, but now even self-handling in its most extreme form is back, and this will throw oil on the flames.”

Protest against the Ports Services Directive

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