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Suffolk worker Dennis Burman was killed last year during training in his first fortnight on the job. He was crushed on a crane, and left hanging on for his life, before plunging 36 metres to his death. His fellow workers at the port in East Anglia are deeply disturbed by this, along with his wife and family.
At a recent hearing (Summer 2004), Ipswich magistrates have decided that the maximum £20,000 fine they could impose was not high enough and sent the case to a higher court. This was after the company entered a guilty plea for failing to ensure the health, safety and welfare of its employees.
PROFIT BEFORE LIFE.
The health and safety executive reports that at Felixstowe: "There was no documented procedure to ensure the trainee's safety while they were in the cranes and none of the crane drivers had any clear written instructions for the procedure of trainees coming up with them." Despite making huge profits, the company was negligent in providing these elementary safeguards for its trainee workers.
This is part of a growing trend. Health and Safety Executive statistics published in summer 2004 show a four percent increase in the number of deaths at work last year. For more details of these, including the many that occur in East Anglia, see:
WHO ARE THESE KILLERS?
The Felixstowe Port bosses website boasts of their corporate lineage:
“Port of Felixstowe (PFL) is the largest container port in the UK and one of the largest in Europe. PFL is a member of the Hutchinson Port Holdings (HPH) Group, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the multinational conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa Limited (HWL). HPH is the world's leading port investor, developer and operator with interests in 17 countries throughout Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe and the Americas”. ( http://www.portoffelixstowe.co.uk ).
The Hutchinson Port Holdings Website elaborates further:
“HPH is a subsidiary of the diversified Hutchison Whampoa Limited (HWL), and was formally established in 1994 to manage the Group's ports and related services worldwide. HWL is part of the Li Ka-shing group of companies. HWL's ultimate shareholder is Cheung Kong (Holdings) Limited”.
Li Ka-shing is the 19th richest person in the world, with a personal wealth of over $12.4 billion dollars. He is one of the richest and most influential men in Asia.
His companies and associates are not people globally known for being nice to working people, the poor and the environment.
Hutchinson Whampoa is one of the laeding investors and supporters of the military dictatorship in Burma. It supports the regime by operating a major port in Rangoon called Myanmar International Terminals Thilawa, along with several of Burma’s other major ports.
Burma is accused by the United Nations of committing a crime against humanity for its use of slave labour. The dictatorship uses torture, murder and imprisonment to hold its people in fear to facilitate their exploitation by multinational corporations. Democracy is crushed and opposition leaders are imprisoned. Multinational corporations provide vital support for this via their investments. For more info see:
Hutchison Port Holdings describe Myanmar (Burma) as “rich in resources and culture”, describing how the dictatorships neo-liberal reforms have spurred “foreign capital investments to new heights”, with billions of dollars of investment leading to “increased exports of agricultural products and timber”, which “combined with strong demand for construction materials, plant equipment and consumer goods, have contributed to the phenomenal growth in international trade”. And this trade is through Hutchinson Ports! ( http://www.hph.com.hk/business/ports/asia/myanmar.htm)
HUTCHINSON PORTS– ENEMY OF ENVIRONMENT AND JOBS IN EAST ANGLIA.
Hutchinsons has three major ports in the region, - Felixstowe, Harwich and Thamesport.
It plans a massive expansion of these. At Harwich’s Bathside bay Hutchison Ports (UK) Ltd. wants to build the second largest container port in the UK, after Felixstowe, with nearly a mile of quayside.
The proposal is being opposed by wildlife NGOs (RSPB, Essex Wildlife Trust), statutory bodies (English Nature, English Heritage, the Environment Agency, the Highways agency), environment NGOs (CPREssex, Friends of the Earth), local residents groups (HEAT, Residents Against Port Expansion, Starboard, Fisherman's Association) and others who are taking part in the Public Inquiry that began in Harwich on April 20th in Harwich and runs until the middle of September.
This proposal will devastate local wildlife and the environment.
Hutchinson also want to double the size of Felixstowe port!
Not only will this devastate the environment, it will also devastate jobs. Closures are threatened at many smaller local ports such as Ipswich, King’s Lynn and Lowestoft because of this.
This is part of a general strategy by the corporations. Instead of investing in the workforce, competition is driving them to consolidate into a small number of superports, like Hutchinsons giant operations at Felixstowe, Harwich and Thamesport.
DOCKERS TO STRIKE!
The first national dock strike for 14 years is on the horizon. The TGWU union confirmed the ballot at Associated British Ports (ABP) on Monday after workers rejected a paltry 2.9 percent offer by a margin of three to one.
ABP, operator of some of Britain’s largest ports, saw its profits rise to £74.5 million last year.“
This will be in 23 ports including some in East Anglia at Kings Lynne, Lowestoft and Ipswich, as well as at Southampton, Teignmouth, Plymouth, Newport, Barry, Cardiff, Port Talbot, Swansea, Garston (Merseyside), Fleetwood, Barrow, Silloth, Troon, Ayr, Whitby, Hull, Goole, Grimsby, Immingham.
The TGWU website says:
AB Ports face prospect of first national dock strike for 14 years
9 Aug 2004
“The prospect of the first national dock strike since the end of the National Dock Labour Scheme came closer today when the T&G confirmed that its members at Associated British Ports (ABP) would be asked to vote on strike action. This move follows the dockers, drivers and port workers covering twenty three port operations across the UK rejecting a 2.9% pay offer by margin of three to one. The union's national organiser for transport Graham Stevenson described the offer as "a wholly inadequate response" to the T&G's comprehensive claim which seeks to establish a minimum wage of £7.50 an hour for all employees and £10 an hour for drivers.
"This result sends a very clear message to ABP that our members are serious about fighting back this year to win realistic and meaningful improvements to wages and conditions," he said. "We are looking to raise not just the standard of living of our members but to bring employment conditions into the 21st century. If it takes a full national strike ballot to make progress so be it."
The T&G said the key points of the claim were for:
· A minimum hourly rate of £7.50 an hour and a 5% increase to all rates currently over £7.50
· A 1 hour reduction in the working week to 38 hours with no loss of pay
· A £10 an hour minimum hourly rate for LGV1 drivers for a 48 hour week
· Sick pay to be based on average earnings
· 23 days holiday a year (excluding public holidays)
· 3 weeks family and parental leave on basic pay
· Average weekly earnings for the full two weeks of statutory paternity leave or £100 whichever is the higher.
The ABP response has been to refuse to discuss most of the claim and to keep the complexities and inequality of different rates of pay for doing the same job and personal contracts. The company has only offered a pay rise of 2.9% to those covered by collective bargaining. The T&G believes a 3.5% pay rise has been imposed on those with personal contracts.
The union has also argued that a comprehensive, modern pay and working conditions package is affordable. Based on the last full year's results from ABP, the T&G said operating profits had risen 4% to £74.5m, turnover was up 7% at £174m and tonnage throughput had risen by 3%.
Specifically at Tilbury, the union said container throughput was up 38% and ABP Connect turnover was up 23%. Half year profits for the current year have continued these upward trends.
"The figures show what our people know," added Mr. Stevenson. "They are moving more goods at the ports but their contribution to increased profits isn't being recognised by ABP. There's a strong mood not just to get a better deal for all our members but to open up the protections of collective bargaining for all ABP workers."
The union has confirmed in a letter to ABP that the process of moving to a national postal ballot on industrial action has started.”
For more see:
“Two Harwich dockers are pursuing employment tribunals after they were sacked by operator Hutchison Whampoa, only then to find that the company was filling their posts through a labour agency.
The agency hires dockers from Poland as part of Hutchison’s strategy of cutting back to a core workforce backed up by temporary workers.
“It’s about returning to the days before the Second World War, where dock workers were employed casually and faced the humiliation of queuing up daily for work,” says John Tipple, who is pursuing the two sacked dockers’ tribunal case”.