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Strike shuts France’s Calais port

Published on September 24, 2020

The northern French port of Calais, a hub for cross-Channel trade and travel, was shut Thursday by striking workers who want higher pay to deal with Brexit and coronavirus.

No vessels were entering or leaving the port due to the 24-hour strike which began at 8:00 am (0600 GMT), unions said.

No ferries were operating either, with vessels of the DFDS and P&O companies either blocked in Calais or across the Channel in the English port of Dover.

Usually, there are about 50 sailings per day.

Unions said the strike was called because workers’ pay was below the national average for the sector despite the particular challenges of working at Calais.

“As the largest passenger port in continental Europe, the port of Calais is simultaneously facing the Covid-19 crisis, Brexit and the migration crisis,” the sector branch of the FO union said.

Port workers fear a drastic increase in paperwork and waiting times when Britain formally leaves the EU trading bloc later this year, especially if there is no deal on the terms of the exit.

The coronavirus crisis might also lead to a greater work load due to health checks and quarantine regulations.

In addition, the FO pointed out that a planned extension of the port next year would raise traffic by some 30 percent.

“It is therefore completely unacceptable that with increased responsibilities the port workers are seeing their pay reduced compared to pay at the national level,” it added.

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