Socialist Worker

Dock workers’ struggle across Europe

Issue No. 1984

Around 6,000 dockers attempted to storm the European parliament in Strasbourg, France, on Monday. Police used water cannons and tear gas to try keep thousands of workers from across Europe away from the EU politicians.

But the demonstrators surged forward, hurling rocks, logs and metal fences to shatter windows along a 150-foot stretch of the building’s front.

Workers, accompanied by marching bands, set off smoke bombs and waved banners saying “Victory to the dockers.”

Belgium dockers held a 24-hour strike action to join the protest.

The protests follow a Europe-wide strike by 40,000 dockers on Wednesday of last week.

Thousands of protesters took to the streets in Germany, mainly in Hamburg and Bremen, while hundreds of workers also staged protests in the Netherlands and Finland.

Some 4,500 German port workers took part in Wednesday’s strike, which paralysed container terminals in the North Sea port of Hamburg where some 1,000 workers walked out.

In Belgium, dockers at the ports of Antwerp, Ghent, Ostend and Zeebrugge struck for half a day to attend rallies.

The European parliament is debating a new port directive this week, which in the name of opening cargo handling to competition will lead to job losses, lower wages and worse safety. It proposes to open up docks across Europe to “self handling” — cargo handling carried out by ships’ crews or unskilled labour rather than dock workers.

The attack links up with the proposed Bolkestein directive. It shows the EU is pushing to deregulate the labour market by attacking workers’ conditions.

The Bolkestein directive aims at the privatisation of all services and the demolition of labour regulations and health and safety conditions across the EU.

There is a Europe-wide demonstration against the Bolkestein directive on 14 February in Strasbourg. For information on the ETUC protest visit and

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Sat 21 Jan 2006, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1984
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