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Articles: Harbour Board 'running roughshod over the interests of their employees'

Contributed by editor on Nov 13, 2008 - 01:00 AM

Local events [3]

The Prosser Perspective.... a weekly column from Dover and Deal MP Gwyn

13 November 2008

My first contact with the Port of Dover was way back in 1979 when
I joined Sealink Ferries and it was very different to what we have
today. The port’s capacity was a fraction of what it is now, there
were no cruise liners and security was almost non existent.

During the eighties I got to know the Board a lot better when the
proposed Channel Tunnel threatened the future of the port. The
trades unions worked in harmony with the bosses of DHB and others to
oppose the Channel Tunnel Bill and a get a better deal for Dover.

Gwyneth Dunwoody MP, who was a champion of the Transport & General
Workers Union (now known as UNITE T&G) visited Dover and met with
Board members and port workers and supported our joint campaign.

I was a Parliamentary Agent and became the co-ordinator of that
campaign when the Bill reached the House of Lords and I was well
placed to see how effective and productive our joint efforts were in
modifying the final form of the Channel Tunnel Act.

This joint working was typical of the way DHB has operated in the
past and even during the days when the T&G had a closed shop
agreement in the port, the two sides were civilised enough to sit
down together and negotiate sensible settlements and this is how it
should be – especially in a publicly owned trust post which has the
obligation to consider the well-being of the town and the

During the nineties the Conservative Government wanted to remove
Dover’s trust status and sell it off to the highest bidder using
their privatisation legislation. My Labour colleagues, supported by
port employees and with the acquiescence of DHB, campaigned hard to
keep the port public - and then along came the 1997 General Election
which put Labour into power and scuppered the Tory privatisation

However, the pressure to privatise has not gone away and as recently
as 2005 the Dover & Deal Conservative Association went into the
General Election with the pledge that if they won the election they
would indeed privatise Dover.

It’s very sad that DHB’s proud history of good industrial relations
is being sullied by the unilateral action of the current Board who
are running roughshod over the interests of their employees,
throwing down the gauntlet and refusing to negotiate.

When attending Remembrance Services on Sunday it was gratifying to
meet so many people who shared my support for the port workers
stance and were appalled by the way DHB were behaving and in
particular they were appalled by their refusal to meet with UNITE
for meaningful negotiations.

It’s just not good enough for the Chief Executive to say he’s
willing to consult. When your job is up for grabs and your pension
is in jeopardy you don’t want to be consulted on how much you are
going to lose - you want to negotiate on the decision that’s
threatening your future.

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