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Dock workers on strike again in Sheerness


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Dock workers have returned to the picket line for the third time this month at Sheerness.

Members of the Unite union are protesting about car importers GB Terminals firing and then rehiring staff to change working conditions.

Unite pickets outside Sheerness Docks on the Isle of Sheppey with regional officer Phil Silkstone (front, right)
Unite pickets outside Sheerness Docks on the Isle of Sheppey with regional officer Phil Silkstone (front, right)

The action is designed to hit the importation of vehicles from the Volkswagen Group, which include Audi, Porsche and Skoda models. They are arriving in the UK to prepare for sales of new 2022-plate cars.

The vehicles arrive in Sheerness on the Isle of Sheppey on car transporter ferries.

Volkswagen say "At this time, there is no disruption to the delivery of customer vehicles" but it is aware of the situation.

A spokesman said: "We are aware that staff at one of our suppliers are in dispute with their employer and have taken industrial action. At this time, there is no disruption to the delivery of customer vehicles.

"At Volkswagen, as part of our sustainability agenda and our procurement policies, we have an extensive set of clear guidelines that all suppliers are obliged to adhere to that relate, not only to the extraction of materials and manufacturing, but also the relationships with the supplier’s own workforce."

Sharon Graham of Unite the Union
Sharon Graham of Unite the Union

Unite says more than 30 staff have been served with "fire and rehire" notices. If they don't sign, they will lose their jobs when their current contracts end.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “GB Terminals fire and rehire actions are a disgrace.

“Unite will not allow our members’ jobs, pay and conditions to be trampled on. If GB Terminals does not rescind this abhorrent ‘fire and rehire’ strategy, make no mistake, the union will fight back. One way or another, the union is going to ensure that our members are treated fairly and decently.”

The workers have already taken two days of strike action during January and are striking again today (Thursday) and are planning a fourth next Thursday on January 27.

The union says it will escalate action to all weekdays in February and March if the company doesn't climb down.

Unite pickets outside Sheerness Docks on the Isle of Sheppey
Unite pickets outside Sheerness Docks on the Isle of Sheppey

Unite regional officer Phil Silkstone said: “Unite warned that GB Terminals was planning to become the latest UK company to add its name to the fire and rehire wall of shame. This greedy and underhand behaviour shows why our members were forced to strike in the first place.

“If GB Terminals believes these fire and rehire notices will somehow put paid to the strikes, they are sorely mistaken. Our members are more determined than ever to prevent these attacks on their jobs and working hours going through.”

GB Terminals have not replied to requests for a comment.

Peel Ports sign at entrance to Sheerness Docks
Peel Ports sign at entrance to Sheerness Docks
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