Hundreds of Unite members working for the Dover Harbour Board began a 48-hour strike at 7am yesterday morning.
Speaking from the picket line yesterday afternoon, Unite Regional Industrial Organiser Jane Jeffery told News Line: ‘The strike is going incredibly well.
‘About 330 of our members are on strike against 190 jobs being tendered out to a third party contractor.
‘Some of the jobs are in security and others are in landside operations, which moor the ships and put the bridges on, the things which the cars drive over to board.
‘The 84 per cent ballot result reflects the fact that staff feel absolutely betrayed.
‘Over the last few years there have been various changes that have been agreed around the negotiating table in order to protect jobs and stay within the Harbour Board.
‘Now, for them to turn round and say they no longer wish to employ these members of staff has really angered our members. They feel really betrayed.
‘About 400 to 500 marched through Dover on Saturday – workers, their families, a delegation from Calais, France and workers from other ports in this country.
‘Management are still claiming that they are running a full service, but our members are down at the docks and it is clear that they are just running a very limited service, they are not running a full service at all.
‘Our members are resolute in their position, they need to win this dispute and we will be announcing further strike dates at a time that suits our members.’
Unite National Secretary for Docks and Waterways, Brendan Gold, said: ‘Dover Port management have forgotten the huge contribution our members make to run the port efficiently.
‘To outsource port security at a time when security is of vital importance is negligent in the extreme.
‘Dover is a trust port which has a responsibility to its workforce and the local community.
‘Clearly the port management have ignored this important fact in their relentless drive for profit.’
Kent Police warned that the strike could lead to freight and traffic delays and announced that a lane on the M20 motorway has been closed in preparation for ‘Operation Stack’ which could be introduced between junctions 11 and 12 to allow vehicles to park.
The strike is against plans to transfer 190 jobs to the private sector in the New Year.
Unite said its members were determined to protect their terms and conditions of employment, particularly their pensions which would be threatened by the outsourcing plans.
The Harbour Board wants to turn the former Hoverport at the Western Docks into a second ferry terminal with a new marina and four new berths.
It said service operations at the port needed to be opened up to competition, in line with European Commission objectives, before a second terminal was built.
Labour MP for Dover and Deal, Gwyn Prosser said that many workers had been employed by the board for as long as 30 years.
‘In recent years the workforce has shown enormous flexibility. They’ve shown the company they’re able to compete with the best.
‘So with that background the town is absolutely stunned by the behaviour of the chief executive, Bob Goldfield.
‘They’ve shown great loyalty to the port through good times and bad and are being rewarded by being told their jobs are just going to be hived off without any negotiations at all.’
The busy port operates 52 tourist and freight departures, and 14 freight-only departures every day, employing 570 staff in total.