Rotterdam dockworkers vote for New Year strikes

Rotterdam dockworkers have voted to strike in the New Year to protest potential job losses at the port’s new highly automated container terminals.

The FNV union said its members on Sunday almost unanimously rejected the port employers’ final offer in contract talks that began in April.

The union has given the terminal operators an ultimatum to improve their offer by Jan. 6 or face industrial action at Europe’s largest container hub.

Dockworkers fear that increased automation at the APM Terminals Rotterdam and Rotterdam World Gateway terminals that opened in 2014 will lead to the loss of between 700 and 800 of the 4,000 container jobs by 2017.

The employers have rejected as unrealistic the union’s demand for guarantees of no job losses for nine years.

The union is expected to call on its members to walk out for three days in January and three days in February.

The Rotterdam Port Authority said the fact that the two new terminals were not yet working at sufficient speed to handle large cargo volumes was partly to blame for traffic increasing just 1 percent in the first nine months of the year.