Collective dismissal underway at Lisbon’s deadlocked docks

Following months of disruption in which Lisbon’s once booming docks have lost “more than 50% of their business”, ports operators have declared they are advancing with collective dismissals.

“We have come to the limit,” Morais Rocha, president of APOL, the port of Lisbon operators’ association, told Público. “It has been more than a month in which the port has been completely stopped. We’re moving forwards with collective dismissals because we now need to downsize as we have no work.”

For the time being, Rocha has not explained how many of the 320 striking stevedores will be permanently laid off.

The news comes after unions rejected yet another proposal on collective work contracts last Friday.

The stevedores have been on this latest strike since April 20 – but the history of disruption at the port goes back years and centres on the use of licensed (i.e. unionised) workers.

The unions are forever accusing bosses of planning to hire non-unionised labour – something the ports operators refute.

Indeed, Morais Rocha has explained that the proposal rejected last week is one that is working in Portugal’s 14 other ports and thus “completely within legal limits”.

Carlos Costa Simões of AOP, the maritime and ports association, stressed that “operators are losing €300,000 every day” and that successive strikes and more than 100 strike warnings have caused “irreversible damage”.

Last November, for instance, Hapag-Lloyd axed the Lisbon stop of its Mediterranean-Canada service, moving the business instead to Leixões – and a month later, Danish group Maersk also suspended its operations.

“We have lost more than 50% of our cargo business,” said Simões. “It will take months if not years to recover.”

Meantime, there is still the issue of “thousands of containers” waiting to be offloaded at the docks.

“We’re hoping for the path of social peace,” Simões added, but at the time of writing all indications were that the current strike could last until June 16.

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