FRANCE: European dockers, protesting against liberalisation of the port industry which they say will hurt jobs, have clashed with police in StrasbourgRecord ID: 687508
- Title: FRANCE: European dockers, protesting against liberalisation of the port industry which they say will hurt jobs, have clashed with police in Strasbourg
- Date: 17th January 2006
- Summary: PROTESTORS MARCHING
- Reuters ID: LVAE4E4V0NOHQ9K4JC3DRUV0I9UN
- Location: France
- Country: France
- Duration: 00:00:09
- Topics: Industry,Domestic Politics
- Story Text: Thousands of European dockers demonstrated in Strasbourg on Monday (January 16) protesting against the "wild and absurd liberalisation" of the port industry, which they say would hurt jobs. They hope to persuade the European Union to bury plans to open port services to competition.
"We are here to protest against the liberalisation of European ports. That's it. Cheap labour, lack of professionalism would put us all out of our jobs," said one unidentified Spanish protestor.
Violence broke out a few hours after the start of the protest and groups of dockers clashed with police throwing stones and breaking glass in the European Parliament building. Police forces moved in and fired tear gas at demonstrators. Three riot policemen were seriously hurt. Heavy damage at the European Parliament building was reported by European Parliament officials.
The European Parliament is due to debate a bill that would scrap existing monopolies on cargo handling services, so that dockworkers would not be guaranteed work and would overhaul concessions which are now awarded for unlimited periods.
Industry associations favour the changes, which they say would streamline cargo movement and make Europe more competitive.
Early signs suggest that the Parliment's main political groups will reject the proposal, drawn up by the European Commission, the EU's executive arm.
A Commission spokesman said that if that happened, the most likely course would be for the Commission to withdraw its bill and perhaps try to include the directive.
Commission officials did not rule out such a move but said the initiative would have to come from industry.
This would be the bill's second rejection by MEPs, who are due to vote on it on Wednesday (January 18). In 2003, they sent back an earlier version to the Commission for redrafting.
Vincent McGowan of the Brussels-based business lobby group UNICE said recently that the European competitiveness would be the loser and this decision (MEPs rejection) will cost industry millions.
The European Transport Workers' Federation (ETWF) organised stoppages at key EU ports. The northern French port of Dunkerque was severely hit by the action and the ports of La Pallice and La Rochelle in western France are expecting 48 hours of disruption with action also expected in Nantes and Bordeaux. In Antwerp, Belgium, dockworkers went on strike for 24 hours causing severe disruption in the second port in Europe for its traffic. In Rotterdam, Holland, some 600 dockers will observe a 4-hour work stoppage.
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