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Yarmouth dockers' battle to be taken to Europe

PUBLISHED: 06:00 18 September 2009 | UPDATED: 13:59 06 July 2010

The fight to save Yarmouth's last dockers at the town's port and outer harbour is to be taken to Europe, an impassioned meeting was told last night.

But as the plans to make foreign dock workers shun Yarmouth's new harbour were announced, there was anger that the key stakeholders in the site were not present to discuss the plight of the remaining six workers who are to be made redundant next Friday.

The fight to save Yarmouth's last dockers at the town's port and outer harbour is to be taken to Europe, an impassioned meeting was told last night.

But as the plans to make foreign dockworkers shun Yarmouth's new harbour were announced, there was anger that the key stakeholders in the site were not present to discuss the plight of the remaining six workers who are to be made redundant next Friday.

Eastport, the leaders of Yarmouth Borough and Norfolk County councils and the East of England Development Agency had been invited to the town hall meeting - but all declined to attend.

The meeting had been called as a last-ditch effort to try to save the remaining dockworkers before they are replaced by employees on casual contracts. There had been 17 dockworkers at the beginning of the year, but their numbers have dwindled to six.

In a show of solidarity, dockworkers from across the region attended the meeting, which heard claims that Eastport had reneged on its promise to bring jobs to Yarmouth through the new £50m outer harbour.

In a last-minute bid to make Eastport change its mind over the job losses, high-ranking union officials said they would contact their European counterparts to ask them not to handle any ships going to or from the outer harbour.

Brendan Gold, Unite national secretary, said: "Squeeze them so tight that they have to come to the table. We are seeing dockworkers made redundant, thrown on the scrapheap."

Tony Wright, MP for Yarmouth, said: "This is going to be the start of casualisation. If we can't find work for 11 or 17 dockworkers, then I have to question what the future holds for the port."

Union officials, including the former chairman of the Transport and General Union, Geordie

Landles, said they feared that poorly trained casual workers would die at the outer harbour.

The meeting ended on an emotional note as long-serving dockworker Stephen Drew described what it was like to know he would lose his job in a week's time.

He said: "I am absolutely gutted. I spent a quarter of a century on this quay. It is a travesty. What is going on?"

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