A divided European Parliament is gearing up for a vote in Strasbourg on 18 January over a proposal to liberalise port services in the EU. The proposal has attracted additional controversy as fears of excessive economic liberalism were cited as one of the main reasons that led French people to reject the draft EU Constitution in May last year.
Unions say they have mobilised 6,000 dock workers in the French city at the weekend for a mass demonstration on 16 January aimed at pressuring MEPs to reject the text. The European Transport Workers' Federation says the proposal "could dramatically affect European port operators and investments in the sector" and eventually lead to job cuts. "No one can ignore the impact that deregulatory proposals will have on jobs, working conditions, health and safety and the quality of port services in Europe," the Union says.
The proposal, which is being steered through Parliament by Georg Jarzembowski (EPP-ED, Germany), has divided Euro MPs in the Transport Committee, leaving them unable to amend the Commission's initial proposal. It will therefore be presented unchanged to the plenary on 18 January.
The socialist group vowed to reject the text outright. "We do not want ships flagged out with badly paid crews, poor employment conditions and doubts about safety," said German MEP Willi Piecyk.