Erik Meijer: ‘Port Services Directive sinking fast’

16 January 2006

Erik Meijer: ‘Port Services Directive sinking fast’

The turnout at this afternoon's demonstration of dockworkers in Strasbourg exceeded all expectations. From noon onwards, ten thousand or so dockers from all over Europe, as well as from the United States and Australia, gathered in the city centre in order to join the two hour march to the European Parliament building. SP Euro-MP Erik Meijer participated in the march after taking part in that morning's parliamentary debate on the controversial proposal to liberalise Europe's ports.

Dockworkers advance on the European Parliament

“The directive will provoke enormous unrest in European ports,” said Mr Meijer. “But it appears that the Commission proposal could be voted down on Wednesday with almost unanimous opposition. Even amongst those who were originally in favour, including the VVD (right-wing Liberals) and CDA (Christian Democrats) there are now major divisions. Evidently it's generally considered that there's nothing to be gained from the proposed liberalisation of port services.”

While huge numbers of demonstrators milled about outside a European Parliament which had been converted into a fortress for the occasion, a number of Euro-MPs and trade union leaders met inside to establish just what the principal objections to the proposal were. There was no doubt, however, that the so-called ‘port package’ compromise would follow the first attempt (made less than three years ago) to liberalise ports, into the waste-paper basket.

The high turn-out for today's demonstration highlighted once again the failure of the European Commission to impose its will on dockers and their unions. “That the Port Services Directive will be thrown out is down to the hard work of the trade unions,” said Erik Meijer, speaking to the panel of union leaders from the European Transport Federation (ETF) which had organised the meeting.

“European ports are already the cheapest in the world,” Mike Gibbons of the ETF pointed out. “Why should we want to change the presently high quality of dock work? Should the free market ideology – meaning competion with low wage countries – prevail?"

“The trade union delegation were pleased by the sizeable attendance of left Euro-MPs at the ETF meeting, seeing it as a good sign for Wednesday's vote. At the same time a Dutch member from the VVD – until last week an enthusiastic supporter of liberalisation – said that her political group (the liberal ALDE) had “found the the Port Services Directive too much to swallow." As Erik Meijer says, this bodes well for Wednesday's vote.

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