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Unite picket lines at dawn at Sheerness Docks in dispute over VW car imports

By: John Nurden jnurden@thekmgroup.co.uk

Published: 16:16, 06 January 2022

Updated: 20:17, 06 January 2022

Strikers formed a picket line outside Sheerness docks on the Isle of Sheppey in a bid to disrupt imports of cars and vans from Germany.

Members of the Unite union are in dispute with importers GB Terminals over proposed changes to their pay and conditions.

Phil Silkstone of the Unite union

Pickets set up camp outside the docks before dawn on Wednesday on the first of a series of one-day strikes.

They are hoping to reduce the supply of new 2022-plate vehicles from the Volkswagen Group which includes Audi, Porsche, Skoda and Seat models.

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More than 250,000 vehicles arrive into the UK through Sheerness every year on an average of three ships a week.

The union says the proposed changes will affect more than 50 staff at the Kent port and plans to hold 24-hour strikes every Wednesday in January escalating to 21 days of action in February and 20 days in March if no deal is reached.

Unite pickets outside Sheerness Docks on the Isle of Sheppey with regional officer Phil Silkstone (front, right)
Unite strikers on picket duty before dawn outside Sheerness Docks
Imported cars at Sheerness Docks

Unite regional officer Phil Silkstone, who joined the picket line, said: “Our members are rock solid in their determination to prevent GB Terminals forcing through these unscrupulous changes.

"The strikes will undoubtedly impact the supply of 2022-plate VW vehicles into the country.

“The VW Sheerness docks contract is up for renewal and we know the other companies involved in the bidding process are not proposing such cuts.

"There are two ways for VW to avoid any disruption - either by pressuring GB Terminals to drop its plans or for it to award the contract to another bidder.”

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The two sides are due to have a meeting with the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, ACAS, on Friday.

GB Terminals has declined to comment.

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