On Monday morning, 29 September, 8,000 dockers from all over Europe gathered in Rotterdam for a lively and militant demonstration against the so-called ’Port Package’ – an attack on the right and conditions of dock workers.
Reports from Rotterdam and Antwertp. Also the leaflet produced by Offensive (cwi in the Netherlands). CWI online.
Police attack European dockers’ protest in Rotterdam. Also report from Antwerp.
The package is a series of measures thought up by the council of EU transport ministers, basically abolishing any special requirements on companies concerning labour hire on the docks.
This will mean casual labour and ship crews loading and unloading ships, even though this is dangerous work requiring special skills and experience. The shipping companies want to save money at the cost of the safety and jobs of dockworkers.
Together with the demonstration in Rotterdam there was a general strike in the European docks and a demonstration in Barcelona by dockers from Portugal, Spain and Marseille in southern France.
Dockers from Rumania were the first to arrive for the Rotterdam protest. A very large contingent form the Belgian port of Antwerp was present. There were also delegations from Denmark, Sweden, Germany, France, and Spain and even from as far as the United States, were the dockers’ union, the ILWU, was recently involved in a strike (that in the end was banned by the courts).
From the beginning of the Rotterdam demonstration there was a provocative presence of large amounts of fully equipped riot police. Apparently the authorities were trying to provoke riots to discredit the protest. Despite this the biggest part of the demonstration was peaceful. Some shuffles broke out between militant Belgian dockers and the police, who were bombarded with fireworks. This did not stop the demonstration from arriving at the gathering point along the banks of the Maas, the main river going through Rotterdam. In the meantime, Rotterdam came to a standstill, as the demonstration went through the main traffic tunnel that links the North and South parts of city, and back over the biggest bridge.
Students’ solidarity walkout
When it was time to end the protest the police had blocked off the complete bank of the river were the main demonstration was taking place. This caused, of course, more anger and some beer cans were thrown at the police, who then charged several times into the demo. In the end a few demonstrators and policeman had to be treated in hospital and 40 arrests were made (mainly French and Belgian dockers).
Offensief supporters (CWI in the Netherlands) handed out leaflets the week before at a school where young dockers are trained, calling on them to strike in solidarity and for their future. On the morning of the strike we were back. The school management at first opposed our presence, but in the end allowed the pupils concerned to go with their teacher to the demonstration, basically authorising the strike.
At the strike we handed out 500 leaflets and sold our paper.
The Dutch Socialist Party (a broad left party) was also on the demonstration.
Dockers protest in Antwerp
CWI supporters handed out leaflets at the Antwerp protest and sold papers. The far right Vlaams Blok party was also on the protest. But the Blok was not well received. This is not surprising given that a Vlaams Blok MEP did not stand up against EU plans to ’liberalise’ dockside working conditions. cwi online.
Report and leaflet posted to cwi Belgium web site Linkse Socialistiche Partji (LSP)/Mouvement pour une Alternative Socialiste (MAS)