A UNION says it is concerned about wages and working conditions at the new £1.5billion superport.

Unite said the refusal of London Gateway – the new deep-sea container port being built in the Thames estuary – to recognise the union will mean a race to the bottom in terms of employment conditions.

The largest union in the country said recognition will reinforce health and safety issues.

But DP World said it wants to give employees a choice rather than pre-determining membership of a particular union. London Gateway is due to open later this year and is already recruiting for its 2,500-strong workforce.

Jane Jeffery, Unite regional officer, said: “We have held a number of meetings with Gateway’s management and they are clear they will not be recognising a trade union prior to the port opening.

“We call on them to rethink this stance.

“Union recognition has proved to be vital in promoting health and safety issues in workplaces across the UK – the fact DP World does not want to recognise Unite does not auger well in what remains one of the UK’s most dangerous industries.

“This is doubly worrying given that the Government is trying to whittle down health and safety regulations.”

A spokesman for DP World said membership of any union would be down to their employees and it takes health and safety seriously.

He said: “We have responded that membership of any union, including Unite, would be a free choice matter for London Gateway employees to decide upon and if membership of one or more unions reached the level where recognition was applicable then we would be happy to do so.

“In terms of health and safety, DP World puts safety as its number one priority.

“We are not in any way against union membership and we strongly believe in freedom of choice for all staff.

“We are very happy to discuss this matter with any party.”