A third industrial strike by UK dockworkers concluded last night, 29 May, just as members of the Swedish Dockworkers' Union began a sympathy blockade in their support against paper manufacturer Stora Enso. The 45 dockers – members of Unite the Union – are resisting unilateral and unfair changes to their work shifts by Enterprise Distribution Centre, a Port of Tilbury employer that exclusively handles parent paper rolls shipped to the UK by Stora Enso.
On 1 March, Enterprise Distribution abrogated the dockers’ collective agreement by changing working hours to a “follow the ship” policy, meaning dockers are only paid from the time ships are ready to unload rather than normal daily shift schedules. The 45 Unite members employed at Stora Enso’s portside warehouse stand to lose from £2,500 to £5,000 annually with the change.
The company, with the consent of Stora Enso, did this without consultation or negotiations with Unite. The ICEM joined the fray yesterday by sending a letter in support of the dockworkers and sending a circular inviting other trade unionists to lend solidarity. Join that campaign by clicking on the ICEM link here.
Yesterday’s conclusion of a second 48-hour strike at the Essex port – a 24-hour once was held 8 May – saw dockworkers’ in Göteborg, Sweden, begin the first of two similar 24-hour strikes in support of the Tilbury dockers. Stora Enso operates two ships between Göteborg and the Port of Tilbury, owning one outright and leasing the other from the Danish shipper DFDS.
Due to the lawful industrial strikes in May, the first formal negotiations over the shift changes between Enterprise Distribution Centre and Unite will be held today, nearly three months after the company imposed the changes without consultation. A spokesman for the dockworkers said the union will wait to see how those talks go before determining whether or not to serve another seven-day intent to strike notice.
The Port of Tilbury employs 3,500 workers through several stevedoring and shipping companies.