Port of Rotterdam Labor Issues Resolution Close at Hand

The trade unions FNV and CNV Vakmensen, Rotterdam container companies and the Port of Rotterdam Authority have concluded labor negotiations on employment within the shipping container industry at the largest seaport in Europe.

The upshot is that job security will be guaranteed until July 1, 2020, to workers who already had an employment contract for an indefinite period by January 1, 2015, and who are covered by a contributor license agreement of the corresponding company.

Furthermore, the Port Senior Fit Scheme will be extended to workers who are over the age of 60. It has also been agreed that the 120 employees of ailing RPS will be offered a customized solution. The companies and the Port Authority have come to mutual agreements on the financing of the measures in an amount ranging from EUR 20 million to 30 million.

containerterminals maasvlakte rotterdam aeroview

Container companies involved in the consultations are ECT, APM Terminals, RWG, Matrans, ILS and Unilash. Leaders of the trade unions will present the outcome of the negotiations to their members with favorable advice. Due to the summer holiday period, however, it will probably take until the second half of August to complete the consultation process with all union members.

The recommendation for ratification comes almost six months after workers at the container terminals initiated a 24-hour strike in January when an ultimatum given employers in the container sector and the Port of Rotterdam Authority expired. Since then two things have essentially changed. The most important change is that a customized solution has been found for the 120 employees of RPS who perform agency work, especially for container companies.

RPS is heading for bankruptcy and is therefore unable to provide its workers job security guarantees. The unions insisted that a solution would be presented for the employees of RPS at the time the job security agreement was concluded. In recent months, an assessment was made of what such a solution would be and what costs it would involve. The Port of Rotterdam Authority and the shareholder of RPS are making funds available to resolve the issue.

It has also become evident that growth in the container industry cannot be taken for granted. Last year the handling of containers in Rotterdam, including reefers transporting frozen food products into and out of Europe, fell by 0.5%. The figures for the past half-year are also negative.

This sheds a different light on the four-year job security guarantee compared to six months ago, according to the Port of Rotterdam. “It is unprecedented that unions and companies have succeeded in coming to this kind of agreement considering that the market is under such pressure,” is said in a recently issued statement.

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This also applies to the expansion of the Port Senior Fit Scheme, which now includes all employees who were born between 1952 and 1956. Upon reaching the age of 60, they are now be able to work 60% at a salary of 95%, and receive 100% pension accrual. This allows for a substantial reduction of the working capacity. A condition for the use of the scheme is the obligation to retire at the age of 65.

The container terminals of ECT, APMT and RWG, and the service providers and hiring companies Matrans, ILS and Unilash, employ more than 3,700 people.

The realization of two new, highly automated terminals on Maasvlakte 2 with capacity of 5 million TEU in the past few years has increased concern that the shift of cargo from the existing terminals to the new ones would cause a loss of jobs at terminals on Maasvlakte 1. Estimates suggest that, depending on developments in the sector, this may involve 200 to 800 jobs until 2020. In the same period, several hundred people will also retire.

Meanwhile, more than 500 people are working at the two new terminals.