There has been a wave of dock strikes in protest at plans to liberalise cargo handling at European ports.
In Germany, over one thousand dockers at Hamburg’s container terminals stopped work.
The EU bill would allow shipping firms to appoint independent contractors to load and unload their cargoes, rather than the terminal companies which currently have a monopoly.
A union representative at Hamburg, Armin Blechschmidt, said: “Under the new guidelines, this port would have to be opened up to competition within the next three years. That would mean any terminal operator could apply to do this work and a big company, like Hutchinson Whampoa, could buy these port terminals here and all the workers at the terminals would lost their jobs.”
There was also a short strike at Rotterdam in the Netherlands, as well as at Antwerp and other Belgium ports and in Finland.
The unions want the dockers to continue carrying out the work. They argue the job is too specialised to leave to personnel on board the docking ships.
Germany’s transport minister has also criticised the proposals. He said they will not improve competition, but could lead to extensive job losses.
Twenty four hour strikes are planned around Europe, including in Belgium, Spain and Denmark, next Monday when the European Parliament is due to debate the measures.