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European Social Dialogue for Ports Started

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Patrick Verhoeven

Patrick Verhoeven

Representatives of European port employers and trade union organisations are meeting in Brussels today for the official inauguration of the Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee for the Port Sector.

The committee will act as a platform to discuss issues of European social reference for the sector. The work programme, which was formally adopted this morning, mainly focuses on health and safety matters associated with port work as well as training and qualifications. Other topics include the impact of sulphur emission rules on port employment, the attractiveness of the sector to young workers and gender issues.

The social partners are FEPORT and ESPO on the employers’ side and trade union organisations ETF and IDC. The participation of ESPO is limited to those countries where port authorities employ dockworkers or are otherwise involved in collective agreements between port employers and dockers’ unions.

“We are pleased that the social dialogue got started and we hope to reach concrete results soon that will contribute positively to our sector”, said ESPO Secretary General Patrick Verhoeven, “At the same time, we must keep expectations realistic. This committee cannot and should not replace social negotiations and collective agreements at national or local port level. It will also be extremely difficult to deal with market and competition restrictions, given the specificities of individual cases.”

The European Commission announced in its recent ports policy communication that it is willing to facilitate the social dialogue and respect the autonomy of social partners. The Commission however indicated that, in time, it expects the social dialogue to also deal with labour conditions, on which a comprehensive fact-finding study was recently published by the Portius institute. The Commission further intends to start a research project soon that will examine health and safety, training and qualification challenges in EU ports. Social partners will be involved in this project. An overall review of the social dialogue is planned for 2016, to assess progress made.

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