‘UNDERHAND’ plans to fire 50 GB Terminals workers who unload and process Volkswagens at Sheerness docks in Kent have been slammed as a ‘sneaky precursor to fire and rehire’ by the Unite union.
The redundancies amount to a staffing reduction of 75 per cent and will leave the company’s Sheerness operations unable to function.
Unite regional officer Phil Silkstone said: ‘We know there is enough work at Sheerness to keep people on and GB Terminals has given no reason for these redundancies or indication that is it closing its operations at the docks. That’s why we believe this is a sneaky precursor to fire and rehire.
‘GB Terminals is running down the clock on the consultation period. We think management will then offer workers the choice of redundancy or signing new contracts on reduced pay, terms and conditions.’
Since announcing the plans earlier this month, GB Terminals has refused to make reasonable allowances to hold consultations with Unite, despite being offered several dates to do so.
Instead, the company held an initial meeting on 22 October with no Unite officers in attendance and has since unilaterally scheduled a second meeting on 5th November – halfway through the 30-day period legally required for redundancy consultations.
GB Terminals is responsible for moving and processing new Volkswagen Group vehicles, which also includes Audi, Porsche and Skoda models, off ferries arriving in Sheerness so they are parked ready to be picked up by car transporters.
Phil Silkstone said: ‘We will be asking Volkswagen directly if GB Terminals is planning to end its contract with the car maker so we can get to the bottom of this. I’m sure Volkswagen will not be pleased to be associated with a company that uses such disgraceful and underhand tactics against its own loyal and hardworking staff.
‘Unite is well aware of the issues businesses in the auto sector and its supply chain are facing and decent employers are working with the union to mitigate them without targeting staff.
‘Unfortunately, it seems that GB Terminals is looking for an opportunity to boost its not inconsiderable coffers by going after its own workforce, something Unite will not stand for.’
- Meanwhile, a pay freeze by Svitzer Marine could bring Teesport to a standstill as union members ballot for strike action
Members of Unite the union crewing tug boats at Teesport, the UK’s fifth largest container port, are balloting for strike action in response to a pay freeze proposed by their employer Svitzer Marine Limited.
The pre-Christmas disruption could bring Teesport, which is at the heart of the government’s new freeports strategy, to a standstill.
The crews, who have worked throughout the pandemic to ensure shipping freight carrying essential supplies for the UK continued to dock safely, are furious as Svitzer has benefitted from a significant increase in volumes coming into Teesside over the last year.
Svitzer’s parent company, the shipping giant Maersk (A.P. Moller-Maersk A/S), is forecast to make profits of $16.2 billion (£11.84 billion) for 2021, in part due to bottlenecks caused by the pandemic.
The ballot for industrial action opened yesterday (Friday 29 October) and closes on Friday 12 November. Strike action could begin by early December.