Monday, February 16, 2009

Rationalisation versus Progress

Two important pieces of news emerged in Cork Port in recent times. On a positive news it seems that there is now a strong possibility of the restoration of the Swansea-Cork ferry link this year as an initiative has been launched to raise €3 million from local businesses and indivduals, in conjunction with public bodies, to set up a ferry service on the old route.

A carrier has come forward who will step in if the €3m is raised and provide a service while a number of suitable vessels have also been identified. Given the public goodwill and the stated support of local businesses there is a good chance this will actually happen this year. Also positive is the news that the vessel will fly an Irish flag and presumably be subject to the same terms and conditions of any other vessel registered here.

The second development termed as "Rationalisation" is the news that agreement has been reached between the Port of Cork and dockers who are members of SIPTU's Cork No.5 branch which will see all 93 of the port's casual dockers made redundant. Personally I regard this as a retrograde step which will not only see almost 100 workers out of a job - many of them middle aged - but will see the end effectively of a trade unionised docks in Cork. For over 100 years the trade unions in Cork port have been strong and have fought hard for the rights of their members over the decades. They also played a part in the history of this city with a historic 1908 Cork Dock Strike and the Cork Harbour Soviet of 1919. Dockers too gave much assistance over the years to seafarers who fell foul of ship owners and were treated appallingly by their employers under Flags of Convenience. While I am sure the International Transport Federation will continue to keep a vigilant eye on the conditions of seafarers they will be without the eyes and ears of dockers and more importantly the solidarity of the unionised dockers if required.

The upper docks in Cork have fallen eerily quiet in recent times as the move to yuppify the old docklands continues.

It is the end of an era - and not a good development in my view.

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